Yale among “most expensive”

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Photo by Andrew Giambrone.

The University’s current price tag of $52,700 earned it the no. 81 spot in a “most expensive college” ranking released earlier this month — in part a function of the 5.8 percent spike in tuition costs for students this year.

Last year’s tuition increase was markedly higher than the percentage increases in recent years, and Yale is currently pricier than both Harvard and Princeton, according to the 2011 “most expensive college” ratings by CampusGrotto, a national news publication that reports on the cost of attending college each year. Still, Deputy Provost for Academic Resources Lloyd Suttle said the CampusGrotto list and similar rankings are not meaningful because prospective students typically consider the amount of financial aid they will receive rather than the nominal cost of attendance.

Yale’s tuition costs jumped by 5.8 percent between the 2010–’11 and 2011–’12 academic years, bringing the full cost of tuition — not including room, board and other fees — to $40,500 this fall. But Suttle said the growth was in line with tuition increases over the past three years, when Yale’s costs were lower relative to most of its peers.

“We pay attention to how Yale’s tuition, room and board rates, and other mandatory fees compare to those at other Ivy institutions, as well as MIT and Stanford,” Suttle said in a Wednesday email. “In 2010–’11, Yale’s total term bill was lower than any school other than Princeton in this comparison group.”

In the same year when Yale raised tuition costs by 5.8 percent, Harvard upped its costs by 2.4 percent and Princeton by 3.3 percent. Yale’s figures not only outpaced those Ivy peers percentage-wise, but also topped the increases the University has posted in the past three years, when Suttle said the costs grew by between 2 and 5 percent.

But the differences in “real cost” — the amount students and their families pay to the school — are modest among Yale and its peer institutions, Suttle said.

He added that the University bases its tuition costs on three main factors: Yale’s annual fiscal budget, the tuition increases at other Ivy institutions and the Higher Education Price Index — an index compiled by the United States Department of Education that measures inflation in higher education.

“The final decision reflects our best efforts to keep Yale College affordable to everyone and in line with tuition increases elsewhere, while at the same time providing sufficient income to meet critical budgetary needs,” Suttle said in a Wednesday email. “I expect the tuition rate to increase again next year, but it is too early in our budget planning process to know by how much.”

While Suttle cautioned that long-term increases in tuition are difficult to predict, he said the University’s tuition rate is “bound” to top the $50,000 benchmark in the future. Caesar Storlazzi, Yale’s director of financial aid, also said the cost of tuition might exceed $50,000 somewhere in the next five to 10 years.

Despite those growing costs, Storlazzi stressed that the financial aid budget increases alongside the cost of tuition and that his office has not noticed a significant rise in the number of families requesting that the University review their financial aid packages.

Though Yale’s endowment returned 21.9 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, tuition rates for the current academic year are already set, and Suttle said the strong investments performance will not directly impact the tuition rate or financial aid figures for 2012–’13. While Suttle said spendable income from the endowment grows slowly on a year-to-year basis, he added that long-term growth in the endowment will eventually ease pressure on University funds and bolster Yale’s financial aid budget.

Other factors that influence tuition prices and financial aid funding include maintenance, transportation and dining hall costs, as well as staff and faculty salaries, Storlazzi said.

The University most recently adjusted its financial aid policies in December 2010 to help lower-income families, Storlazzi said. Those who make under $65,000 per year are no longer asked to fund their child’s education, he said, while families earning between $130,000 and $200,000 are expected to contribute an average of 15 percent of their annual income — up from a 12 percent contribution in 2009–’10.

“We’re trying to keep Yale as diverse as it is now,” Storlazzi said. “Economic diversity is one of those intangibles that you can’t tell by just looking at someone, but it’s an important criterion nonetheless for shaping our incoming classes.”

Storlazzi said Yale expects to provide undergraduates with $117 million in financial aid in the current academic year, which will benefit roughly 57 percent of the Yale College students.

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