Comprehensive fee will increase by 3.5% for the 2020-2021 academic year

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Luther announced that the comprehensive fee will increase by 3.5% for the upcoming academic year on Oct. 18, bringing tuition and fees to a total of $55,720.

Like other colleges and universities, Luther raises tuition each year. Luther’s financial team takes other school’s fee increases into consideration while making decisions about Luther’s comprehensive fee.

“In the comparison set of institutions that we evaluate, the 3.5% increase for next year is below both the mean and the median increases from these institutions for last year,” Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric Runestad said. “Our 4% increase last year was slightly above median and mean, and the roughly 3% increase from the year before was slightly below.”

The fee increase is the result of factors such as financial aid to students, salaries for faculty and staff, heating and water bills, electricity, and increases in tuition at comparable institutions.

“Our greatest expense is the financial aid that we provide students,” Runestad said. “Last year, that was over $50 million. Many of the expenses of running Luther College increase every year. The cost of health insurance for our faculty and staff, or electricity for the campus, continue to rise every year.”

Luther annually awards over $50 million in financial aid, and over 98% of students receive some form of financial assistance. Employing the faculty and staff generally accounts for about two-thirds of Luther’s budget each year according to Interim Vice President for Enrollment Management Derek Hartl.

“The resources necessary to provide students with high-level educational experiences, facilities, and access to co-curricular opportunities and activities are quite significant,” Hartl said. “Despite our best efforts to contain costs and reduce expenses, we are subject to external cost increases that are beyond our control, especially in the areas of utilities and healthcare. In order to bear these increased costs without eroding the quality of the Luther experience for students, it’s necessary to increase the comprehensive fee.”

 Hartl said that Luther tries to balance its comprehensive fee and the impact it has on students and families with the quality of education the students receive. While the cost of attending Luther is high, Hartl hopes that a Luther education will benefit students economically in the long term.

“Add in Luther’s exceptional outcomes data that shows 97-99% of Luther graduates are employed, attending graduate or professional school, or volunteering within eight months of graduation, and I believe prospective students will continue to see significant value in a Luther education,” Hartl said.

Ellie Palashewski (‘22) was surprised by the yearly tuition increases. 

“I thought it would basically be the same amount, a set amount, and I would be looking at taking out the same amount in loans every year,” Palashewski said. “Instead, tuition increased. It’s gone up enough that it makes a difference, and I know people have left Luther because of the cost increases. It is something the school needs to look seriously at because if they don’t, then people are less likely to come and actually stay here for their undergraduate degree.”

Palashewski said that cost was one of the biggest factors that she and her family considered when she was choosing which college to attend. She believes that many people will not consider Luther as a feasible option after seeing the comprehensive fee without the addition of scholarships and aid.

 “I think for admissions, they have to be even more vocal about the scholarships they give out and the financial aid packages, otherwise people are not going to look at Luther as a serious option that they could actually pay for, and not be in debt for thirty plus years,” Palashewski said.

Students with concerns regarding the comprehensive fee increase can contact the Financial Aid office for assistance in applying for aid, scholarships, grants, and loans. Students can also reach out to Financial Services for more information about managing student accounts, finding payment plan options, and financial literacy resources.   

All data taken from comprehensive fee reports on luther.edu and previous Chips reporting.

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