About six months earlier than usual, the college announced that it would increase tuition by 4% next year, bringing the cost of tuition alone to $52,415 for the 2018-2019 school year. Combined with other costs of attending, including meal plans, parking and room and board, a year at the college will cost on average $68,520 per student next year.
Changes in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) regulations enabled the college to raise tuition for next academic year earlier than it was previously able to. Usually done in the spring, determining tuition this early in the year “allows [the college] to say to a student that’s in the early decision pool, [who is] making decisions now, what the tuition is and allow them to apply for financial aid,” Vice President of Finance and Administration Roger Demareski said.
For the third year in a row, Lafayette will devote 1% of the increase to financial aid. Some of the other 3% will go toward faculty and staff salaries, based on Provost Abu Rizvi’s analysis “of where faculty salaries need to be,” Demareski said. Money raised for financial aid works toward the college’s goal of need-blindness, which it has a ten-year plan to accomplish.
Aside from the 1% directed to financial aid, a large component of the other 3% is directed to finanical aid for Lafayette students who will need more assistance as costs rise.
“Separate from the 1%, if tuition increases, financial aid has to increase,” Demareski said.
“Higher education is expensive, but at the same time when you can raise your cost” you should should direct it “to a place that makes you be more diverse, more affordable,” Demareski said. Tuition has been steadily rising at a rate of a little over 4% since 2000, when tuition was $24k.
Lafayette’s market position is also a component of the decision to raise cost.
“It’s a market, so we look at our peers,” he said. “We look at where we sit in the market relative to our peers so we try to position ourselves in the right way.”
Dickinson College, a 2,700-student undergraduate-only liberal arts school sitting two hours west of Lafayette, charged tuition close to $53,000 for 2017-18, with cost of attendance at about $69,000, according to its website. Lafayette’s nearby rival, 8,000-student Lehigh University’s tuition sits at about $50,000 and a total cost of $64,000 for this academic year, its website states.
Byerly wrote in an email to parents that the cost per student is actually $13,500 over the cost of attendance, a difference provided by the college’s endowment, which is due to the “past generosity” of donors.
Jane Collins ’18 contributed reporting.