Annual tuition rise reflects higher rate of increase

by Bret Hauff / Beacon Staff • April 13, 2016

Emerson has announced its annual tuition and room and board increase, another peg in the decades-long surge beyond national norms. 

According to a letter sent to parents and students last month, the Board of Trustees approved an increase of $1,728 for all undergraduates, to match the $40,032 price tag given to the class of 2019 last year. 

Though the actual dollar amount of the surge is similar to surrounding schools, it’s the rate of tuition increase—4.5 percent—where Emerson exceeds national and local schools.

Although this phenomenon is not irregular for American academic institutions, the college's five-year surge in tuition has outpaced national trends since the 1975-76 academic year, according to data collected by The College Board on private four-year nonprofit institutions. In most cases, Emerson’s increase percentage was more than double that of other similar institutions. 

The rate that the college raised tuition is also about one percent higher than those of nearby institutions, including Berklee College of Music and Boston University, which both increased by 3.3 percent. Emerson also exceeded United States economic inflation

Andrew Tiedemann, vice president for communications and marketing and the college’s spokesperson, attributed Emerson’s higher price to the cost of operating in Boston.

The percentage of increase is greater because Emerson started at a lower cost than most schools, based on data available on the college’s website. In 2000, the college’s tuition was $2,000 less than the national average for private institutions. This measurement established a standard for comparison to universities with lower or higher cost. 

“We've done the best we can to have our tuition increases be as low as they can be,” Tiedemann said, “while also making the investment we need for current and future students.” 

Diana Diloreto, junior writing, literature, and publishing major, worries about how this may impact families with multiple children in college, and said this hike may impact future Emerson applicants.

The college wrote in the tuition letter that the increase plans to expand on-campus housing to accommodate more than two-thirds of its students by fall 2019. According Emerson, this goal will be achieved by two projects that are currently in progress. 

Emerson is constructing a new residence hall at 2 Boylston Pl. by 2017, expected to house 370 students, and renovating the Little Building to expand its capacity by 290 students by 2019. 

“It’s unfair because I won’t benefit,” Diloreto said of the tuition increase. “It should benefit my major and my career if it’s increasing my tuition, rather than things that don’t even exist yet.” 

The letter read that faculty and administrative hiring and the college’s push to facilitate interdisciplinary choices for students necessitated the increase. It’s also due to the plan to construct the new dining hall, additional student services, and study-abroad programs. 

Tiedemann said the college looks for options to keep tuition increases lower. Emerson seeks revenue from additional online courses and programs for professional learners. 

The college will also decrease its operating budget by $3 million by renegotiating contracts, eliminating positions, and canceling or deferring projects, according to Tiedemann.

“We’re essentially 94 percent tuition dependent,” he said. “Almost all of our expenses have to be met by tuition.”

Boosting funding is another area that’s in progress, Tiedemann said. Since President M. Lee Pelton came to the college in 2011–2012, Tiedemann said, the institution’s philanthropic efforts have set records for three of the four last academic years.  

Michael Huffam, a senior writing, literature, and publishing major, said Emerson is a place where artists can thrive. 

“Some of the greatest artists you’ll ever meet don't always come from the most well-off places,” Huffam said. “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with this two thousand, but I’m scared for future generations who come here that [tuition increases] could significantly influence their decision.”

 

News enterprise reporter Allison Hagan contributed to this report.