At the start of the semester, the AU Board of Trustees, along with faculty and staff members, finalized the rates for room, tuition, board and fees for the 2017-18 school year. The change in cost of tuition alone showed a 2.49% increase from the previous year. According to Vice President of Finance, Dana Stuart, this amount is tied for the lowest percent increase in tuition since the 1969-70 school year, which is as far back as her records date.
The rates for 2017-18 are what Stuart calls normative, meaning that AU has increased the costs a modest amount to allow for increased expenses. “The university experiences normal increases in expenses, such as utilities, wages and benefits [and] technology,” Stuart said. “That also means that it doesn’t really provide ‘extra’ funds that can be delegated to a specific project.”
The overall rate of tuition, room, board and fees for the upcoming school year increased by 3.27% in total cost, which is equivalent to last year’s increase. In 2016-17, students paid $38,200 in total, and next year, they will pay $39,450.
“Our goal is to keep the increases as modest as possible while still allowing us to provide a high quality education and maintain our facilities,” said President John Pistole. Just as is the case with countless other institutions, the university is tasked with adjusting tuition, room, board and fees each year to aptly reflect changes to the cost of providing an AU education, Pistole commented, noting that AU in particular typically falls in line or slightly below the national cost of living increases that any family or organization encounters.
While there won’t be any notable changes to campus life or university programs, the increased fees will enable AU to maintain and invest in current services and technologies, such as Canvas. “There really isn’t a direct correlation between increases in tuition, room, and board and what you see on campus,” said Pistole. “The modest increases in rates help us continue to do what we’re doing well, but they usually don’t allow for major investments.”
In years past, fees have increased slightly more than the average, largely to accommodate health and counseling services. This year, however, general fees were made the priority when analyzing necessary improvements. “We haven’t increased non-health services fees in several years, and the adjustment this year was necessary to continue utilizing Canvas, to keep making investments in technology on campus, and to keep up with the rising costs of providing services on campus,” Pistole noted.
The rates for the 2017-18 school year are not designed to overcome a gap in the budget or have other significant impact on AU’s financial situation, according to Pistole. “Each year, it costs more to provide classes, housing, meals and support services, so each year our rates have to increase a little,” he said. “We continue to work very hard to operate efficiently and to reduce our expenses, but the reality is that food, utilities and other expenses cost more. Just like that affects your family’s own budget, it affects the budget at AU.”
Because of the minor upsurge in the cost of tuition, room and board functions primarily to counteract inflation, AU will not be reinstating any majors or faculty or staff members.
“The evaluation of programs that we completed in 2016, which resulted in the discontinuation of some programs, was part of a larger, strategic effort to focus on our core mission, to meet financial expectations for the university, and to make sure we are positioned to be healthy and successful in the future,” said Pistole.