As the United States continues to see heightened inflation, higher education has not been immune to its effects. A report by the NBC news stated that tuition costs are expected to increase rapidly in the coming years, with some schools increasing their tuition by as much as 4.7 percent.
According to Carleton’s Vice President and Treasurer Eric Runestad, Carleton’s comprehensive fee — encompassing tuition, housing and meal plans — will increase from $75,600 in 2021-2022 to $78,624 in 2022-2023, which is a rise of four percent. Runestad was able to provide some insights into the causes of this increase, how the college came to these decisions and what it means for current and incoming students.
The primary reason for the increase, Runestad said, is the rising costs for the maintenance of the college and the compensation for faculty and staff. The main way the college intends to offset these costs is with an increase in tuition, as tuition represents nearly 60% of net revenues to the college’s operating budget.
“Inflation impacts both our students and their ability to pay, and also the real impact of the salaries that we provide our faculty and staff,” Runestad said. “As costs for the college go up, utilities, insurance, salaries, health insurance, and food costs, the comprehensive fee also increases to offset those increased costs.”
However, Runestad maintained that this increase does not affect the college’s commitment to financial aid, and the college’s financial aid budget will be increased next year to help compensate for any rise in costs. Next year’s financial aid budget will be the largest in ten years, according to Runestad.
“Meeting students’ demonstrated financial need continues to be one of our highest budget priorities and one of the most significant drivers of the comprehensive fee,” Runestad said. “Next year’s budget also significantly increases the College’s commitment to financial aid, which is important as we continue to meet the full demonstrated need of our current students, and use this financial aid to help us build an outstanding and diverse incoming class.”
These changes were decided by the college’s Budget Committee, a subcommittee of Carleton’s College Council, which includes representatives from faculty, staff and students. This is done in conjunction with President Byerly and the senior leadership team, with ultimate approval coming from the Board of Trustees and the College Council. This particular budget was approved in February of 2022 and is available on Carleton’s budget website.
Quinn Buhman ’24, Carleton’s CSA Treasurer, serves as one of the student voices on this committee, and is hoping to give students more input in the budget process.
“While we serve as the student voice on the committee, I am working to have a group of students come to a meeting in Fall Term to present their priorities, similar to how an office would,” Buhman said. “I am hopeful that this new move will increase the amount of campus participation and student influence on the budget process.”
From a student’s perspective, the budgeting process is like a “balancing act,” according to Buhman.
“Delina Haileab ’22 and I fought to walk the line of keeping tuition costs low while still funding the offices and departments that are crucial to the operation of the school, while still successfully lobbying to increase the wage rate for students to $12 per hour.” Buhman said.
The college is also providing opportunities for students to learn about the budget process. Buhman, Director of Budgeting and Financial Analysis Jane Rizzo and Vice President Runestad will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, May 10 that aims to help students better understand the school’s finances.
“One of my campaign promises was to increase the transparency of the college’s budget and endowment to students, and this is a great opportunity for students of all knowledge levels to learn more,” Buhman said. “The more students that understand the operations of the budget, the more they can proactively contribute and make their voices heard in the college budget process.”