2018-19 Comprehensive Fee Increases to $67,490
By Benjamin Pontz, Managing News Editor
The 2018-19 comprehensive fee for tuition, room and board at Gettysburg will be $67,490, a 3.5% increase from 2017-18, the same increase as from 2016-17 to 2017-18.
College President Janet Morgan Riggs announced the increase, which the Board of Trustees approved last month, during her presentation at a town hall meeting for administrators and support staff held Thursday as part of a larger presentation on the college’s endowments and finances.
“The key factors driving that number are enrollment — how students are paying their bills — and financial aid — how much discount on what we’re charging our students,” Riggs said, referring to revenue from the comprehensive fee.
Riggs pointed to the increasing discount rate, the percentage of the tuition per student multiplied by the number of students not collected due to financial aid, as evidence of the college’s efforts to recruit more diverse students. The rate has increased from approximately 39 percent to 45 percent last year across all class years and 48 percent for the Class of 2021.
“This tells a real story about changing demographics,” Riggs said as she discussed the 48 percent figure for the current first-year class. “That’s a big change. We’re not alone — I don’t know if misery loves company — but we’re not alone. This is what’s happening at private institutions across the country.”
Riggs said that Gettysburg actually has among the lowest discount rates of peer institutions, many of whom have crossed the 50 percent threshold. Nevertheless, over the past ten years, the college’s financial aid budget has nearly doubled from $33 million to $61 million, $58 million of which comes from the college’s general operating expenses (as opposed to the endowment).
“We are very pleased that we are able to offer a Gettysburg education to so many students who are well-qualified and who would not have been able to come to Gettysburg without financial assistance,” Riggs said, noting that 91 percent of financial aid is awarded based on financial need. “There are just fewer and fewer families that can afford the cost of a Gettysburg education, or, if they can afford it, want to afford the cost of a Gettysburg education.”
The consequence of the increasing tuition discount rate is that, despite increases in the comprehensive fee, the money the college is taking in from tuition revenue has increased by less than 1 percent annually over the past five years.
“This is the reason why department budgets have not been growing at a greater rate, why salaries have not been growing at a greater rate. This is our greatest source of revenue, and it’s essentially flat — almost flat,” Riggs said.
Last year, in an interview with The Gettysburgian, Riggs said, “Our long-term goal is to bring [tuition increases] closer in line with the CPI [consumer price index], and we’re starting to get there.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January that the consumer price index rose 2.1 percent in 2017. A spokesperson for the college was not immediately available for comment.
Nevertheless, Riggs said Thursday that comprehensive fee increase represented the “status quo,” but emphasized that she realizes it is a large figure.
“And you wonder why our parents expect a lot of us,” Riggs said, discussing the price tag for 2018-19. “This is why.”
Editor-in-Chief Jamie Welch contributed to this report.