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Number of New England schools in $50,000 tuition bracket to double

Published: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 02:04

Boston College

Dilys Ong / Tufts Daily

Boston College will be joined by many schools in the New England area that will be charging more than $50,000 a year.

The number of schools in New England that next year will join Tufts in charging $50,000 or more for yearly tuition, room and board will likely more than double, according to a survey The Boston Globe conducted of over 20 colleges and universities.

Schools costing over $50,000 for the first time include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Brandeis University, Wellesley College, Dartmouth College, Brown University and College of the Holy Cross.

They will join many schools that this year began charging over $50,000, including Tufts, Boston College (BC), Boston University, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College and Babson College.

As the number of colleges and universities that cost over $50,000 per year for tuition increases, schools are assessing why these increases are necessary and how to help families afford higher education.

University President Lawrence Bacow believes that much of the issue with the rising college costs lies in the inherent competition between schools to be the best.

"The biggest issue for higher education in the United States has to do with cost and access, and what a lot of people don't understand is that competition in higher education in the United States actually drives costs up," he said in an interview with the Daily.

Many valued features in schools — including smaller classes with more hands-on learning, more student-faculty contact and more extensive co-curricular activities — cost more money and this causes tuition to rise, Bacow said.

"In other industries, competition tends to drive costs down, but in higher education it's different because we actually know how to make the cost of higher education cheaper … but all you have to do … is walk outside and see all the tours, and what everybody wants is exactly the opposite," he said. "So that's what drives cost."

Director of Public Affairs at Boston College Jack Dunn feels similarly. He told the Daily that the $50,000 tuition charge represents the constant competition among some of the top schools in the nation to be the best.

Dunn explained that currently approximately 15 schools — including Boston College and Tufts, New York, Columbia, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon Universities — charge more than $50,000.

"These are all schools that are rated among the best in the nation," he told the Daily. "I think the reality is that with excellence comes the price."

Bacow said that Tufts in particular spends money to keep the student-faculty ratio low and to facilitate closer student-professor interaction.

According to Bacow, among research universities, Tufts ranks within the top five with regards to both most classes enrolling less than 20 students and least classes enrolling more than 50.

"Where we put our money is in trying to ensure that students have small classes and trying to make sure they have a lot of student-faculty contact," Bacow said.

Given the prospect of increasingly high tuition, Bacow sees it as the university's responsibility to provide adequate aid for students.

"I've tried to make this a priority for us to ensure that we have adequate financial aid resources so that we can admit students regardless of the ability of the family to pay the full price of an education," Bacow said. "Nobody pays the full cost — even people with no scholarship support whatsoever — because the endowment supports the cost of educating students."

Dunn explained that the situation at Boston College is similar, where need blind admissions and an extensive financial aid program help mitigate the high cost of tuition.

"Overall, 70 percent of BC students receive aid," Dunn said. "Forty percent receive pure institutional aid that comes from BC alone, pure institutional need-based aid."

Dunn pointed out that Boston College is one of a select few schools that run a need-blind admissions program and guarantee to meet the demonstrated financial aid needs of every student.

"We're fortunate because we take students regardless of their ability to pay tuition," Dunn said. "We are one of around 20 universities in the [United States] that meet the full need of our students, and I think that helps to mitigate tuition increases. Families with need realize their need will be met."

The situation is similar at Harvard, where despite a 3.8 percent increase in tuition for next year, students can expect to pay only what they can afford.

Harvard announced that although its tuition will increase to $50,724, a good portion of that money will go toward a nine percent increase in financial aid.

"Among other reasons, many of Harvard's costs continue to increase, including the $13 million increase in financial aid outlined in the announcement," Senior Communications Officer for Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeff Neal told the Daily.

Although Dunn believes the higher cost of tuition is necessary to maintain quality, he says that Boston College has embarked on a comprehensive program to keep tuition rates from increasing more substantially.

"We have a hiring freeze … We've implemented an early retirement with non-contract personnel and have embarked on a comprehensive university-wide energy reform that has reduced our carbon footprint and our energy costs, so those are just some of the measures we've employed," he said.


Ellen Kan contributed reporting to this article.


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3 comments Log in to Comment

Tue Apr 13 2010 12:39
Funny, on our college tour from Baltimore to Boston with every state in between, not one school was under 50k. Goucher [Baltimore], Bryn Mawr [PA], Penn [Phila], Skidmore [NY], Manhattanville [NY], Bard [NY], Boston U. [Boston], Hampshire [Amherst]. 50k is the new 30k!!
Tue Apr 13 2010 10:37
Why does everyone forget about the Maine colleges when compiling the "most expensive colleges in New England" lists? Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby are all over $50,000/year. The original Boston Globe article on this subject also neglected to mention the northern triumverate. In fact, Bates (which is my alma mater, to my everlasting shame and lack of employment) was the fourth most expensive college in the country last year, although I think it is only #9 this year.

Mr. Dunn's assertion that climbing tuition is a function of colleges competing for supremacy is correct. Moreover, it is about almost-top ranked colleges trying to outshine the top ranked through what one might call price prestige. That is, many people - prospective families, academics, folks who tabluate USNWR - believe that the more expensive a school is, the "better" it must be. If you were to look at the most expensive colleges in the country, very few are in the top 10 ranked US News universities or lib arts colleges, with the exception of Manhattan-located Columbia and NYU. Instead, the most expensive colleges are those ranked 10-30, in an attempt to leapfrog their standing by setting the market. As such, Bates costs more than Williams, Sarah Lawrence more than Wellesley, BC costs more than Harvard, and Tufts more than Yale.

The same principle holds true in graduate school. On this very page, I see a link to "Tufts School of Medicine has the highest private school tuition in country." A year at Suffolk or Northeastern Law School costs virtually the same as a year at Harvard Law School, which is breathtaking when one realizes that the former schools were set up to educate the poor/immigrants/non-WASPS that Harvard Law refused to admit back in the Gilded Age. To get an MBA at NYU's Stern School costs nearly $200k, and I met a recent graduate working at a local retail store. Sooner or later, this bubble will hopefully pop, because at the moment we are producing a generation of over-educated, under-employed twentysomethings who graduate with a lifetime's worth of non-dischargeable debt and little way to pay it back, let alone start families or own property. They face a bleak and uncertain future.

Sean Kinney, University of Washington
Tue Apr 13 2010 10:07
Huh???? - and we are having issues here in Seattle, with tuition at the University of Washingon's now approaching $3,000 a quarter? Okay - this puts things in perspective.......

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