While paying $24,000 a year for tuition has become the norm at Emerson, few students expect to pay extra fees on a class-by-class basis. However, with a new announcement from President Jacqueline Liebergott and the Board of Trustees, performing arts students will soon be looking at an even higher rate.
The Board of Trustees approved a 4.9 percent increase in tuition costs last month, bringing next year's tuition to $25,248, according to David Rosen, vice president of public affairs.
In addition to this cost hike, the trustees also announced a differential rate of 10 percent on each performing arts (PA) class. If students are taking a performing arts class to fulfill a general education requirement, they will not be charged more than they would for another class, according to Rosen. There will however, be a 10 percent charge on every performing arts class for all students, regardless of major.
This differential rate will not go into effect until September 2009, and students who applied to the college before the announcement last week will not be affected. This means that neither current students nor next year's incoming freshman class will have to pay this fee, Rosen said.
He attributes this to the fact that students made the decision to come here without knowing about this charge, and it would not be fair to force it on them. However, all admission materials will now contain information about the new rate.
"The basic rationale is that performing arts courses are more expensive to teach and support," Rosen said. "The classes are smaller, so there is more faculty."
Rosen also said the money would support the performance spaces and advanced equipment needed for technical theatre.
Based on a full course load, an Emerson student will pay $3,156 per class next year.
Were the 10 percent increase to go into effect next year, students would pay $315 extra for each performing arts class.
Depending on course load, students could pay up to $1,260 on top of their regular tuition if they took four performing arts classes a semester.
Although current students will not have to pay the increased rate, many said they find the idea unjust.
"I don't think it's fair, because this is a performing and liberal arts school and we pay enough," said Jessica Wierzba, a freshman BFA musical theatre major.
The lack of performance space was also an issue for Wierzba, who sees the sale of the west side buildings as a big loss.
"There is not going to be the same kind of space in the new building," she said. "We're lacking in every kind of space."
Rosen said the space problem will begin to be resolved in 2009, when the new Paramount Center is slated to open.
"There is no doubt that when Paramount opens, we will have the finest theatre facilities for a school our size," he said. "It will give much needed rehearsal space to the students."
Some students outside the performing arts department also said the increase is unfair.
Freshman film major Julie Sesnovich said she sees it as an unnecessary burden on performing arts majors.
"I don't understand why this is happening," she said. "Though I would never want it, if anyone should have that fee, it should be film students. It's an expensive major in general, and we use the most expensive equipment."
Sesnovich also acknowledged that film students have hidden costs, so instead of being asked for a fee up front, students must pay out of pocket for some major requirements such as developing film. Students in other majors also face such hidden costs such as some theatre majors who must pay to attend plays.
However, Emerson is not the only school to apply differential rates to the performing arts program. Rosen said the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU) also charges its students more. According to The NYU Office of Undergradute Admission, Tisch charges $34,780 for tutition, while the business school is $32,540. Other schools at NYU cost $31,690.
"It's not unusual for differential rates to occur," Rosen said. "The same thing happens in graduate school, when medical school costs more than architectural school."
Rosen also said the college is not concerned the differential could discourage students from applying.
"Emerson is currently an excellent educational value with tuition charges that are well below schools like [Boston University] and NYU, with which we compete," Rosen said. "This will still be the case, even with the 10 percent increase in the PA course tuition."
However, some performing arts students are still not convinced that the fee is necessary.
"It's not fair to do this to the performing arts students," said Kristofer Aigner, a junior BA acting major. "There is not enough space to justify this charge. The administration needs to do more to protect and promote its performing arts students."
Annemarie Bartholomew, a junior film major, said she sees some sense in adding this fee.
"If the charge is going toward the things the students need in their classes, then I think it's fair to charge this," she said. "I think that they should be provided with things like rehearsal space at no extra charge, because it's something they need. But extra things used in class could be paid for with this money."