Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Tuition increase to enhance ‘educational experience’

DU’s Board of Trustees in January approved a 6.075-percent tuition increase for the 2007–08 academic year, bringing the cost of a DU education to $31,428 for full-time undergraduates and most graduate students.

Room and board costs also are increasing, as are some student fees.

The tuition and fee increases help to sustain the University’s continued investment in the “educational experience,” Provost Gregg Kvistad wrote in a February letter to students and parents announcing the increases. That investment includes research labs, library resources, the Cherrington Global Scholars program, undergraduate writing and quantitative literacy programs, and a languages center.

The investment also includes expanding and enhancing the faculty ranks, Kvistad says.

“Universities are labor-intensive, people-intensive institutions,” Kvistad says. “One of the ways you increase the academic quality is to invest in the best professors, the best infrastructure and the best technology available.

“We’re in good shape financially,” he says. “We have an efficient administration and we continue to invest in quality; and investing in quality is very expensive.”

Although DU’s latest tuition increase is its lowest in the last five years, tuition rates and fees at DU and other universities across the country continue to swell at more than twice the rate of inflation. In its 2007 Higher Education Outlook report, Moody’s Investors Service predicts that 5–8 percent increases in tuition will be common for the next academic year at private higher-ed institutions; market experts predict inflation will hover around 2 percent.

Still, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, DU undergraduate tuition and fees have been increasing at a slower rate than at most public and private universities.

Despite the steadily increasing cost of education, demand for a DU degree is on the rise. According to Tom Willoughby, vice chancellor for enrollment, first-year applications have gone up 61 percent in the last three years. That, in turn, is allowing DU to be more selective in its admission process as more and more students compete for the same 1,120 seats in the freshman class.

“If people see value in what we are offering, more will want it, and they will be more willing to make the increased financial investment required,” Willoughby says. “I think students are making decisions on whether to enroll and stay here based on the quality of the education and living-and-learning environment.”

DU’s persistence rates bear that out. Eighty-nine percent of students who entered DU as first-year, first-time students in fall 2005 re-enrolled in 2006. It is the highest one-year persistence rate since the University began tracking the number in 1997, according to an October 2006 report from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

However, of those students who did not return, most said it was because “tuition was too high or their financial aid was inadequate.”

Kvistad says accessibility — the cost of attendance and provision of financial aid — is “a major concern” for the DU administration.

As a result, for 2007–08 the University has budgeted increases in its need-based aid pools for continuing students. Those pools will grow by 2 percent for returning sophomores, 4 percent for juniors and 6 percent for seniors. Total DU undergraduate and graduate financial aid will increase from $60 million in fiscal year 2007 to $69 million next year.

Increasing the University’s endowment resources and annual gifts will make more funds available for need-based aid, but building the endowment is a long-term process that will take years, Kvistad says.

In the meantime, he says, “the University is committed to providing the best education possible for our students and to do so in a manner that maximizes our accessibility.”

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