Campus Feature March 25, 2019 Uncategorized Wade Fullerton

Tuition increase poses challenges


For many students on campus, the high tuition expenses of attending school have placed a barrier between the student and service institution in terms of where their money goes. Transparency between students and the college helps put myths to rest concerning why college has a cost.

Tuition encompasses two definitions of costs. A published cost covers tuition, fees and average room and board. Net cost is the published cost minus federal, state and Alma College financial aid and scholarships.

Understanding the difference helps clarify where tuition payments go as a reality of attending Alma College. Beginning with the different definitions of tuition helps clarify where and why tuition benefits the campus and the students.

“The terminology between net cost and the published cost is important. It is the net cost that considers all the financial aid and scholarships,” said Jeffrey Swears, Chief Financial Officer.

Tuition increases for several reasons, both internal and external concerns that are generally impossible for the institution to prevent.

Inevitably, tuition costs rise every year due to gradual increases in inflation as general costs increase for all goods and services that the college purchases; costs are passed on in the form of a tuition increase.

“Inflation certainly affects increasing tuition. At the same time, we focus on affordability, regarding keeping costs as low as possible in order to keep a quality education affordable for our students,” said Swears.

The purpose of tuition as a value is to provide a high quality education and living experience for all students on campus. That also covers a fair wage for staff and services on campus that are provided for students.

“All schools face the same thing. We all try to provide the best quality education and living experience we can, but we want to pay the staff a fair living wage,” said Swears.

The best means for the college to keep tuition affordable is to be efficient with the costs that come with maintaining a private college. Student affordability is a high priority of Alma College.

When it comes to affordability, the relationship between fixed scholarships and increasing tuition rates can become a topic that is often lesser understood by the general student populous.

“Scholarships do not increase with tuition cost. In a Freshman’s arrival year, they are awarded a level based on their financial need and merit. The college keeps this rate flat because we want to award as much as we can. If tuition increases, then that is a difference that students end up paying,” said Swears.

The smaller the college, the lower they can keep the published cost. Therefore, the gap between rising tuition and fixed scholarship rates can stay at a cost-effective level.

“For Fall 2019, Alma’s published cost will increase by 2.85%, the lowest such increase in at least 15 years,” said Swears.

The highest cost that colleges face is maintaining and improving campus utilities, facilities and equipment for future generations. The costs for people who live and use student services on campus primary make up the base of this cost.

“Beyond that, we have costs for technology and educational support costs. We have the buildings themselves. We have to maintain residents’ halls and all the buildings on campus. Student meal plans are another considerable cost out of tuition,” said Swears.

All of the listed services add up to the total cost of tuition for providing an education. As those costs increase, the cost of student tuition rises correspondingly to meet that shift.

“In 2017, Alma College’s net cost was the third lowest among 7 Michigan MIAA schools,” said Swears.

The faculty at the Student Service Office do their best to provide efficient, affordable education for students at Alma. Their work is important and appreciated by many students on our campus.


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