Luther fee increases by four percent

Linh Do, Staff Writer

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Luther is increasing the overall fee for the coming 2019-20 academic year by four percent, which will result in a comprehensive fee of $53,830. This growth follows a trend of rising fees. This increase is higher than the 2018-19 academic year, which was 3.5 percent.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric Runestad attributes the fee increase to inflation as the living cost, and the scope of the facilities needed to supplement that living cost, increases yearly. According to Runestad, the administration always tries to balance between what Luther wants to deliver and what it costs to deliver it. Luther’s increases are comparable to similar institutions.  Over the last twelve years of increases, Luther has had an average fee increase of 3.5 percent.

Graph courtesy of Eric Runestad
Luther’s comprehensive fee is lower than average for similar schools in the region.

With the fee increase, administration is also conscious of how much financial aid Luther gives out to keep up with the comprehensive fee. Administration is trying to balance the affordability for students with the long-term financial health of the college.

“As we’ve given students the increased amount of aid, it puts up a pressure on this particular increase so that we can afford to continue to give back that kind of aid,” Runestad said. “We work hard and try to be mindful of how hard students are working to afford Luther’s education.”

As for this larger increase in comprehensive fee, Elayna Kiehne (‘21) is disappointed in not being aware of where her money is going.

“It almost feels like a waste of money because you don’t have that knowledge of where your money is going,” Kiehne said. “It’s just like a blatant statement as opposed to an explanation.”

Both Kiehne and Ember Griebling (’20) wanted an explanation and more transparency in how the college communicates with students. Moreover, both students hope that with the comprehensive fee being increased, the college can provide students with free laundry and more dining dollars (as the price in other dining services on campus besides the cafeteria has also increased but the amount of dining dollars still remains the same).

Meanwhile, Swopnil Shrestha (’21) understands why the college has to increase the fee when he observes how the school has been dealing with budget cuts for various departments including those that Shrestha is involved with like the Digital Multimedia Center where he is working. However, seeing how his friends who are international students, especially those from the United World Colleges, have to pay an extra amount of tax, Swop is concerned about their struggling with the increasing amount of overall fee.

“I see that it’s a problem for a lot of my friends and I think that’s the concern that the administration should address,” Shrestha said.

Shrestha suggests that the administration and CIES (Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success) can communicate with the students better to make the process more inclusive by involving more students.

Janice Cordell, the Director of Financial Aid, encourages students who have financial difficulty to come to consult with the Financial Aid Office once they receive their financial aid package. Cordell provides information that for domestic students, the financial aid eligibility is dependent upon their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and for international students, the financial aid package is already calculated based on the percentage of the increasing comprehensive fee.

“Our mission here is not only to help students be able to come to Luther but our mission is also to help them be able to afford to stay,” Cordell said.

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