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Hamilton tuition goes up—again

By Kevin Welsh ’15

April 4, 2013

Last week the new comprehensive cost, covering tuition, room and board, for the 2013-2014 school year was announced, and the magic number to attend Hamilton is now $57,790. This number includes $45,620 for tuition, $11,710 for room and board and $460 in student activities fees. From 2012-2013, the cost has increased by $2,150 overall with a $1,280 increase in tuition, and $450 increase in room and board. The new cost represents a 3.9 percent increase overall.

While this increase in tuition will be both unsurprising and unfathomable to a lot of Hamilton Students, it is, by our standards, a typical increase in cost and necessary to ensure the quality of the College continues. Nationwide college cost usually increases 7% a year, and for the last 5 years Hamilton has increased steadily at an average of 3.6%. While admittedly most other colleges cost less, the average four-year private college costs approximately $40,000, Hamilton plans to use the money very responsibly and, most importantly, continue to make sure students can afford coming here.

Demonstrating Hamilton’s commitment to keeping the school affordable Karen Leach, vice president for Administration and Finance, told The Spectator that: “For next year, the primary drivers of increased costs are: increasing financial aid (7.2 percent), increasing wages (two percent).” While the costs may be increasing, the driving force of it is to keep us all financially capable of returning.

When asked to explain further costs, Ms. Leach cited increases in Physical Plant’s budget to maintain our historical buildings, the construction of the new theater and studio art building, the renovation of Minor Theater into dorms and an increase in Career Services budget. While the school received many gifts to fund many of these projects, it was also necessary to take on debt to afford them, leading to an increase in tuition. When it comes to increasing wages, Ms. Leach said that the college employs more than 700 employees from the professors to the fundraisers, and that “if we give employees even modest raises, our costs rise.” She also noted that some fees and costs are simply outside Hamilton’s control; they have no power over insurance costs or legal fees.

The most prominent figure was the seven percent raise in financial aid. This is partially due to Hamilton’s new “need blind” admission process. Three years ago, Hamilton enacted a “need blind” admission policy, meaning they did not consider financial aid when considering a student’s application, and the increased financial aid budget helps reflect this commitment. Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Monica Inzer explained that with the admission of the Class of 2017, all Hamilton students will have been admitted need blind, and the additive costs initially required to enact the policy will be phased out. Naturally, as required financial aid will increase, but foreseeably the required increases that were caused by the new policy will taper off with the the class of 2017.

Dean Inzer also added that, “through the current fundraising campaign $40 million was raised for financial aid endowdment,” with most of that money coming from generous alumni, not money gathered from tuition.

Regarding the higher rate, the College firmly believes that the increased costs help maintain the academic and institutional quality that students, parents, alumni and staff have come to expect over the years.

The school believes that the costs today are strong investments in their students futures. Ms. Leach said, “I think many alumni can vouch for the outcome of the investment they have made,” citing continued fundraising enthusiasm from alumni who are still eager to help the school.

Clearly the $40 million dollar figure from Dean Inzer helps support that claim. But, according to Stephanie Aldrich ’83 who is both an alumna and a parent paying for a Hamilton education the issue is more complicated.

She says, “we swallow the tuition because we know the value Hamilton provides, but people who don’t have that connection might look at the price and think they can find a comparable education elsewhere.” To the College, the money spent today helps Hamilton bring in money from alumni in the future, but there is a concern that it might scare away future alumni as well.   However, any prospective student who spends time with alumni will find out that they emphatically support Hamilton (from its professors to its parties), and that they really do value their Hamilton experience, as Aldrich does.

Most students often wonder who comes up with the costs of the school, wondering if the process is completely outside the input of student and parents who end up footing the bill.

Ms. Leach explained that the budgetary process begins with collecting the budget requests from each department and then consulting with the On-Campus Budget Committee, President Stewart and her senior staff and the Board of Trustees. Students, parents and alumni are also involved as Ms. Leach presents the budget to all these groups throughout the course of its creation.

At Hamilton the Student Assembly is given a presentation outlining the costs. They are also presented an opportunity to suggest changes or reductions.

In the past one area of success driven by the students was utilities. Hamilton “green” initiative has lowered the utility expenses by 12 percent for each of the last two years. It seems that if Hamilton can manage to follow this trajectory, the student body and staff may be able to positively influence the budget. More conservation of energy will certainly help lower costs.

While most people may agree that all these services are crucial to Hamilton’s existence and cannot be cut they still fear for their own finances in the process.

Students should not worry though as, “we [Hamilton’s administration] are mostly concerned that we meet financial need for Hamilton students and we are providing financial aid for families who cannot afford it,” said Leach.

The school seems to be recognizing that as they increase costs they need to increase aid. Students should not worry that they’ll be losing financial aid any time soon—all need will be met in the 2013-2014 calendar year.

When asked about the future costs, and any concerns about scaring off potential families, Ms. Leach assured that the school felt confident it was worth the price, and that their financial aid would help ease parents minds.

Student Jose Vazquez’15 was more worried though, when asked he said, “I think Hamilton needs to consider the probability that students won’t attend Hamilton based on the staggering tuition as is. If they don’t market their need blind [policy] then they’ll probably have a lower application rate based on the tuition alone.”

In the future, Ms. Leach theoretically foresees increases of three to four percent, which could mean crossing the 60,000 dollar a year threshold as soon as next year potentially.

Hopefully Hamilton heeds Vazquez’s words, so this new threshold won’t scare off new students—because  then we would really have a money problem, wouldn’t we?

Last week the new comprehensive cost, covering tuition, room and board, for the 2013-2014 school year was announced, and the magic number to attend Hamilton is now $57,790. This number includes $45,620 for tuition and $11,710 for room and board. From 2012-2013, the cost has increased by $2,150 overall with a $1,280 dollar increase in tuition, and $450 increase in room and board. The new cost represents a 3.8 percent increase overall.

While this increase in tuition will be both unsurprising and unfathomable to a lot of Hamilton Students, it is, by our standards, a typical increase in cost and necessary to ensure the quality of the College continues. Nationwide college cost usually increases 7% a year, and for the last 5 years Hamilton has increased steadily at only 4%. While admittedly most other colleges cost less, the average 4 year private college costs approximately $40,000, Hamilton plans to use the money very responsibly and, most importantly, continue to make sure students can afford coming here.

Demonstrating Hamilton’s commitment to keeping the school affordable Karen Leach, vice president for Administration and Finance, told The Spectator that: “For next year, the primary drivers of increased costs are: increasing financial aid (7.2 percent), increasing wages (2 percent).” While the costs may be increasing, the driving force of it is to keep us all financially capable of returning.

When asked to explain further costs, Ms. Leach cited increases in Physical Plant’s budget to maintain our historical buildings, the construction of the new theater and studio art building, the renovation of Minor Theater into dorms and an increase in Career Services budget. While the school received many gifts to fund many of these projects, it was also necessary to take on debt to afford them, leading to an increase in tuition. When it comes to increasing wages, Ms. Leach said that the college employs more than 700 employees from the professors to the fundraisers, and that “if we give employees even modest raises, our costs rise.” She also noted that some fees and costs are simply outside Hamilton’s control; they have no power over insurance costs or legal fees.

The most prominent figure was the seven percent raise in financial aid. This is partially due to Hamilton’s new “need blind” admission process. Three years ago, Hamilton enacted a “need blind” admission policy, meaning they did not consider financial aid when considering a student’s application, and the increased financial aid budget helps reflect this commitment. Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Monica Inzer explained that with the admission of the Class of 2017, all Hamilton students will have been admitted need blind, and the additive costs initially required to enact the policy will be phased out. Naturally, as required financial aid will increase, but foreseeably the required increases that were caused by the new policy will taper off with the the class of 2017.

Dean Inzer also added that, “through the current fundraising campaign $40 million was raised for financial aid endowdment,” with most of that money coming from generous alumni, not money gathered from tuition.

Regarding the higher rate, the College firmly believes that the increased costs help maintain the academic and institutional quality that students, parents, alumni and staff have come to expect over the years.

The school believes that the costs today are strong investments in their students futures. Ms. Leach said, “I think many alumni can vouch for the outcome of the investment they have made,” citing continued fundraising enthusiasm from alumni who are still eager to help the school.

Clearly the $40 million dollar figure from Dean Inzer helps support that claim. But, according to Stephanie Aldrich ’83 who is both an alumna and a parent paying for a Hamilton education the issue is more complicated.

She says, “we swallow the tuition because we know the value Hamilton provides, but people who don’t have that connection might look at the price and think they can find a comparable education elsewhere.” To the College, the money spent today helps Hamilton bring in money from alumni in the future, but there is a concern that it might scare away future alumni as well.   However, any prospective student who spends time with alumni will find out that they emphatically support Hamilton (from its professors to its parties), and that they really do value their Hamilton experience, as Aldrich does.

Most students often wonder who comes up with the costs of the school, wondering if the process is completely outside the input of student and parents who end up footing the bill.

Ms. Leach explained that the budgetary process begins with collecting the budget requests from each department and then consulting with the On-Campus Budget Committee, President Stewart and her senior staff and the Board of Trustees. Students, parents and alumni are also involved as Ms. Leach presents the budget to all these groups throughout the course of its creation.

At Hamilton the Student Assembly is given a presentation outlining the costs. They are also presented an opportunity to suggest changes or reductions.

In the past one area of success driven by the students was utilities. Hamilton “green” initiative has lowered the utility expenses by 12 percent for each of the last two years. It seems that if Hamilton can manage to follow this trajectory, the student body and staff may be able to positively influence the budget. More conservation of energy will certainly help lower costs.

While most people may agree that all these services are crucial to Hamilton’s existence and cannot be cut they still fear for their own finances in the process.

Students should not worry though as, “we [Hamilton’s administration] are mostly concerned that we meet financial need for Hamilton students and we are providing financial aid for families who cannot afford it,” said Leach.

The school seems to be recognizing that as they increase costs they need to increase aid. Students should not worry that they’ll be losing financial aid any time soon—all need will be met in the 2013-2014 calendar year.

When asked about the future costs, and any concerns about scaring off potential families, Ms. Leach assured that the school felt confident it was worth the price, and that their financial aid would help ease parents minds.

Student Jose Vazquez’15 was more worried though, when asked he said, “I think Hamilton needs to consider the probability that students won’t attend Hamilton based on the staggering tuition as is. If they don’t market their need blind [policy] then they’ll probably have a lower application rate based on the tuition alone.”

In the future, Ms. Leach theoretically foresees increases of three to four percent, which could mean crossing the 60,000 dollar a year threshold as soon as next year potentially.

Hopefully Hamilton heeds Vazquez’s words, so this new threshold won’t scare off new students—because  then we would really have a money problem, wouldn’t we?

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