NAICU Letter to USA Today

March 31, 2009

Letters to the Editor
USA Today

To the Editor:

I was stunned that USA Today would ignore the significant sacrifices private colleges and universities are making to keep student out-of-pocket costs as low as possible during these tough times ("Colleges duck tough cuts, keep hiking pay and tuition," editorial, March 30).

Despite the economic downturn, 92 percent of private colleges and universities are increasing their student aid budgets for next year. Based on the 250 private colleges and universities so far that have reported 2009-10 tuition and student aid data to NAICU, the average increase in institutional grants and scholarships is 9.2 percent. At the same time, private colleges are on track to record the lowest average increase in tuition and fees in at least 37 years-4.2 percent, which is just slightly higher than the 3.8 percent rate of inflation in 2008.

In the past 10 years, private colleges have increased student aid by 250 percent, more than twice the 72 percent increase in tuition, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Thanks to generous student aid programs, nearly nine out of 10 students at private colleges pay less than list price.

College endowments have dropped by 24 percent in the past six months, and fund raising has decreased dramatically, so how are private colleges able to boost student aid while keeping tuition increases to historical lows? They are transferring cost savings from other budget areas. As of December, half reported that they had frozen hiring, slowed existing construction projects, and restricted staff travel. Forty-percent had scaled back salary increases and delayed campus maintenance. One in five had frozen salaries and cancelled planned construction projects. All of these percentages have increased in the past four months.

Fortunately, while higher education is facing severe budget pressures, it has avoided the mass layoffs that have hit the news industry. Through smart, strategic budget management, private colleges have boosted financial aid, lowered tuition increases, and protected academic quality. These are difficult times for private colleges, our students, and their families, but we are fully committed to ensuring that our institutions remain in reach for students from all backgrounds.


David L. Warren
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Washington, D.C.

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