By Emma Reilly
Though Washington College’s upcoming tuition increase may cause financial stress for some students, the change falls in line with current trends in the world of higher education.
On April 5, President of the College Dr. Mike Sosulski announced in a campus-wide email that WC will be increasing its tuition costs for the 2022-2023 academic year.
According to the email, starting next fall, a year’s tuition at WC will tally up to nearly $66,000. This steep sum will cover the cost of “[ensuring] that the experience we offer to students is the fullest possible,” Dr. Sosulski said.
According to the email, changes to student fee, housing, dining, and tuition costs are in part due to expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising food and energy costs related to recent inflation are also cited in the email as a reason for the tuition jump.
Colleges across the nation are facing these same challenges, making Dr. Sosulski’s announcement rather unsurprising.
According to The Hechinger Report, staffing shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic are leading colleges to institute wage increases at the same time that inflation is hiking up costs.
These rising expenses are exacerbated by decreasing enrollment numbers. “Enrollment has declined by nearly a million students since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” The Hechinger Report said.
Though colleges and universities can justify tuition increases, they must consider how such changes contribute to students’ economic stability.
“Families and their earnings haven’t fully recovered [from the COVID-19 pandemic], especially as the student population we’re more focused on today tends to be first-generation, lower socioeconomic status, more diverse,” Senior Vice President for Business Affairs and Finance at Cleveland State University David Jewell said.
Jewell raises an important point: students from certain communities and backgrounds are disproportionately burdened by increasing college costs.
That being said, few students pay full-price tuition. According to the College Board, 82% of students at private nonprofit institutions and 55% of students at public four-year universities and colleges receive institutional financial aid.
At WC, the same is true. Dr. Sosulski’s email noted that the College is directing attention to its scholarship programs in order to mitigate some of the effects of the price increase.
According to Interim Provost and Dean Dr. Michael Harvey, there are other resources available to students looking to defray tuition costs.
“As a general rule, a student or a parent with a concern should always reach out…to financial aid,” Dr. Harvey said. “Don’t just assume that because you can’t pay the bill, it’s over. We want students to succeed and we will do everything we can to help students succeed.”
Dr. Harvey believes that the College should work to build up the alternatives available to students who are struggling to manage tuition costs.
“If we can provide more on campus jobs, for example, that’s one thing students can do. If we can connect students with federal grants, that’s another thing to do,” Dr. Harvey said. “If we can find benefactors and donors…who can support this or that part of the student experience, [that’s another option].”
If the College makes a dedicated effort to communicate such possibilities to students — and if WC’s merit- and aid-based scholarship programs are in fact bolstered — the tuition increase may prove less challenging for students.