Tuition increases demand transparency: Rising prices shouldn’t go unquestioned

Staff Editorial

Rate of Tuition Increase

Tuition is increasing … again.

Students shouldn’t be surprised. Every year brings a letter from Vice President for Business and Finance Marc Mathews explaining that the cost of being a Pioneer is rising. No specific explanation is given, just the generic statement that Transylvania will “do everything possible to keep the cost of attending Transylvania well below the private college national average.”

Try harder.

According to almost any measure, Transy’s tuition increases are unusual. Compared to a baseline measure of higher education costs, the Commonfund Institute’s higher education price index, Transy’s tuition increases are over double the national rate.

Compared to regional schools, our tuition increase was similarly higher. If we compare tuition increases to the overall cost of goods with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index, Transy’s exceptional cost increases continue.

Indeed, Transy’s price increases have been holding around an increase of 5.7 percent a year for three years running. No matter the availability of loans or financial aid, no matter the state of the economy, and even when faculty experience a freeze in benefits, tuition grinds upward at the steady, implacable 5.7 percent.

According to the College Board’s “Trends in College Pricing” report, in 2011-2012, average tuition and fees for private, nonprofit four-year institutions (schools like Transy) were $28,500. At Transy, they were $28,250.

So Transy did OK, below the average, right? Not quite. Transy increases its prices by about 5.7 percent a year, as noted, while the average increase for other private colleges was 4.5 percent. Transy is still cheaper, but only barely, and it gets pricier at a much faster rate than other schools.

But it gets better. The number cited for average tuition and fees, $28,500, is for a national average that includes very high-cost areas like New England. The average tuition and fees for private colleges in the South for 2011-2012 was $24,713.

This puts the university’s claims about below-average costs in a dubious light. When the appropriate numbers are used, they just don’t add up.

To add insult to injury, students are left in the dark. The students are a primary source of income for the university and a major stakeholder both financially and ideologically. Yet we’re given no details of the budget. We aren’t told how the extra tuition is being spent.

It is time for some transparency at Transy. What do our administrators make? How much does Transy spend on land acquisitions a year?

We’re told to question everything. Well, let’s start here.


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