Vassar tuition to increase 3.5 percent next school year

Vassar fees will increase to $61,140 next year, ensuring that the school will remain on lists of the most expensive colleges and universities in the country.

The 3.5 percent increase was announced in a letter sent to students and their families by Vice President for Finance and Administration Robert A. Walton. “The primary issue for the 2014/2015 budget was increased compensation for faculty and staff, and the increased costs for benefits to staff including health care,” Walton said in an emailed statement.

Vassar is consistently ranked as one of the costliest colleges in the nation. In 2013, Vassar was named second most expensive school in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Only Columbia University’s tuition is higher.

The increase is consistent with other schools and slightly less than the national average, according to College Board, which recorded an average tuition increase of 3.8 percent at private colleges for the 2013-2014 academic year. Comparatively, this increase is low. “Students at Vassar College [paid] $12,700, or 7.6 [percent] more,” in the fall of 1984 then they had the previous year, reported The New York Times.

The $61,140 is comprised of tuition, room and board, a student activity fee and a health service fee. According to the Admissions’ website, students should expect to pay an additional “$2,250 for books, supplies, and personal expenses, and an allowance for transportation to and from the campus.”

Administrators claim the increase will not affect students who receive financial aid. Vassar meets 100 percent of students’ demonstrated need, so as costs increase, assuming family income remains the same, financial aid packages will increase in tandem. “The increase in tuition does not affect the number of students accepted into Vassar. As part of the yearly Financial Aid budget process, we factor in the increase in the cost of attendance for the three returning classes and we anticipate what the cost of the incoming class will be,” explained Director of Financial Aid Jessica Bernier.

International students need not worry. While Admissions is need-aware for non-US citizens, Dean of Admissions David Borus wrote in an emailed statement, “Vassar offers funding to a significant number of international applicants each year.”

“I’m on financial aid so I don’t really feel the pain. I’m sure it’s valid though, because Vassar has an amazing faculty, administration and facilities. Students who can afford it and who think it’s worth it can pay more, after all it’s a free market…I do hope Vassar offers financial aid to the best students,” says Manning Wu ’14, an economics major from a northeastern province in China.

Those without financial aid, however, may have cause for concern. Forty percent of students pay the comprehensive fee for Vassar each year, including room, tuition and board. The $1,660 increase might hurt an income unmitigated by aid. While “average base pay increases for 2014 will remain at 3 percent for the second year in a row in the US,” many families, particularly the self-employed, will not receive an increase (SHRM, “Pay Trends for 2014: Salary Increases Hold Steady,” 10.8.13). Matt Foster ’14 has not received financial aid while attending Vassar. “If I was coming back next year, however, I’d definitely be concerned about the tuition increase. It’s obviously going to affect my family.”

Furthermore, the increase might reduce socioeconomic diversity on campus. Michael Cadenas ’15, an economics major and financial aid recipient, argued, “As tuition keeps increasing, it will discourage people who don’t have the means from applying.” Despite the need-blind financial aid policy, high fees may intimidate students. If less low income students attend Vassar, the students who attend Vassar will be exposed to less and less of a spectrum of economic diversity.

While the fee increase may be relatively low, private college fees are much higher than alternative options like state universities. With this increase in tuition, many community members must now reassess the cost and feasibility of attending this institution.

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