As I write this, there are still patches of snow on a few corners of campus, but we have also had some days warm enough for activity to return to the Quad. We hope that soon it will be Frisbee weather for good!
A few weeks ago, you received my letter regarding tuition and fees for next year. A few parents have asked for more information about what contributes to the projected increase in costs, so I thought I’d share some background on costs at Lafayette and other colleges and universities. The factors that contribute to college costs are a bit different from those captured in the consumer price index, so it is sometimes frustrating to parents to note that our increases, like those of many of our peers, have been greater than inflation over the last several years.
We consider a low student-to-faculty ratio (currently 10.4 to 1) to be an important barometer of our ability to create the close faculty-student relationships that are a hallmark of a Lafayette education; the support of dedicated staff is also critical to the overall experience of our students. This means staffing is our major cost driver. For example, the College’s budget for staff salaries has increased over the last several years as we added positions in student services areas such as counseling and academic support. Devoting additional funding to faculty salaries has made us more competitive with our peers, helping us continue to recruit and retain excellent faculty. The fact that we are just concluding the hiring of some truly outstanding faculty who will join us this fall reflects in part some gains we have made in our starting and assistant professor salaries.
We also devote significant resources to financial aid, where athletic scholarships, academic merit scholarships, and need-based financial aid all help us to create a vibrant and talented community. As part of our new initiative for Affordability and Distinction through Growth, we plan to substantially increase our budget for need-based aid by reallocating some aid dollars and making financial aid a priority of our capital campaign. In addition, we have budgeted 1 percent of next year’s tuition increase directly to need-based financial aid. While families who are not receiving financial aid may feel that this commitment is an additional burden, you may be surprised to learn that the price we charge for the full cost of attending Lafayette is several thousand dollars lower than our actual cost per student. Thus, every student, even a student who is not receiving financial aid, is partially subsidized by the College’s endowment.
The goal of our new affordability initiative is to improve the education of all Lafayette students by admitting highly qualified students regardless of their ability to pay, creating a talented and diverse student body that gives students the opportunity to live and learn with peers from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. I know that many of you contributed to the President’s Challenge, a fundraising blitz in support of this goal that we did in early March. I am deeply grateful for that support, and excited to report that we exceeded our goal and raised $1.2 million in one day for financial aid. We are working hard to build resources for the future that will allow us to make Lafayette more affordable for more families.
Thanks for your patience with this brief higher education finance primer! — and for your support of all we do to try to offer the best possible experience to your student.