Tuition set to increase

The percentage increase in comprehensive fee is up from last year, though still part of a downward trend over the past 20 years

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Tuition set to increase

Data courtesy of Eric Runestad

Data courtesy of Eric Runestad

Data courtesy of Eric Runestad

Martin Donovan, Staff Writer

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The Board of Regents raised Luther College’s comprehensive fee — tuition, room, and board — by 3.5 percent for the 2018-19 academic year to $51,750. The percentage increase in comprehensive fee is up from last year, though still part of a downward trend over the past 20 years.

The increase in Luther’s comprehensive fee is primarily influenced by the consumer price index, which measures general economic conditions and inflation, as well as the rise in comprehensive fees of 22 other colleges similar to Luther. The comparison group of institutions that Luther measures itself by includes liberal arts schools in the Upper Midwest with similar student body sizes to Luther. For the 2017-18 academic year, Luther ranked in the bottom 25 percent for both the overall total of comprehensive fees and the percentage increases.

According to the Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric Runestad, Luther aims to strike a balance when setting the comprehensive fees that takes market factors into account while still being mindful of the burdens on students and their families.

“We talk about institutional viability with affordability,” Runestad said. “Our intention is to find a number that is informed by inflation, accurate in working across the comparison schools that we pay attention to, and will help us continue to deliver a high value education; but not to price it to such a degree that we are not sensitive to the needs of our students and their families who are working really hard to afford this education.”

Runestad also indicated that the increase in comprehensive fees allows Luther to provide more financial aid to its students.

The Director of Financial Aid Janice Cordell asserted that financial aid and scholarships will not adjust to the increase in comprehensive fees for the 2018-19 academic year, however, the raise in comprehensive fees may increase some students’ need based aid.

“When students apply for financial aid for most families their situation stays similar and their contribution stays similar,” Cordell said. “When the costs go up if they qualify for need-based aid their need will increase. We’re going to work really hard to try and help every family afford to stay at Luther, so if they qualify for more need based aid, it is very possible that they will qualify for additional assistance based on their increase in need.”

Luther designed an institutional loan program that is intended to assist students who depended on the Federal Perkins Loan Program, which expired on September 30. Perkins loans served as a need-based assistance program for low-income students who attended undergraduate and graduate schools.

Cordell signaled that Luther’s institutional loan program is not as extensive as a Perkins Loan, however, Luther intends to help compensate for the expired federal assistance program.

“There are students who had a Perkins Loan this year who may have an institutional loan next year to replace it,” Cordell said. “[Students] cannot consolidate that with their federal aid [and] it doesn’t have all the forgiveness built into it that the Perkins Loan had. It’s a minimal program, we don’t have enough to fund the [institutional loan] at the same degree as the perkins loan. But for those who are here who would have qualified for a Perkins Loan next year we have a replacement program for it.”

Stefan Hankerson (‘19) expressed his concerns that the increase in comprehensive fees could have a negative impact on low-income students.

“I understand keeping up with the sticker price to compete with other schools, but if the net price is going to stay the same or increase for most students that will only adversely affect poorer students on campus,” Hankerson said. “They would have to see their financial situation worsen and even if their financial situation stays the same but tuition increases that would make it marginally, however much so, still more difficult to attend Luther.”

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