If past years are any indication, Yale students can expect a slight hike in tuition and fees next academic year.

At this coming weekend’s meeting, the Yale Corporation – the University’s highest governing body – will discuss how much to increase the term bill as both students and the University struggle amid the economic downturn. Tuition has risen steadily in past years, but administrators have yet to decide whether the added cost will match the rate of inflation or surpass it. While Provost Peter Salovey said tuition is a stable source of revenue for the University, University President Richard Levin said he hopes to avoid putting additional strain on families’ ability to pay for Yale.

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“In the years when we have done well economically, we have tried to reduce the burden on parents,” Levin said, adding that roughly 40 percent of Yale families pay full tuition.

Administrators are presenting several tuition options in advance of this weekend’s Corporation discussions, Salovey said, and Levin said the final amount of the increase will be announced after the meeting.

Tuition and room and board for Yale College rose 3.3 percent, or $1,500, after the 2008-’09 academic year, bringing the total cost of attending Yale to $47,500 this year. The year before, the Corporation only increased tuition and fees by the expected level of consumer price inflation, or 2.2 percent, in addition to expanding the University’s financial aid offerings.

During Levin’s tenure as president, Yale has had the slowest rate of tuition increase of any Ivy League school “by far,” Levin said. When he took over, the University’s tuition was the highest in the Ivy League. He said the endowment’s high returns through the 1990s and 2000s have allowed the Corporation to keep tuition low relative to peer schools.

But in 2008 Yale was not facing a $300 million budget deficit as it was in 2009, making it more difficult to prioritize keeping tuition low.

An increase in tuition may not necessarily raise a great deal of revenue for Yale: Tuition accounted for just 9 percent of the University’s revenue in last year’s budget, whereas 45 percent comes from the endowment.

Whatever the rise in tuition next year, some Yale students will be able to depend on financial aid, which administrators have pledged to protect even as they slash budgets across the rest of the University. Levin emphasized that students who have not needed financial aid before will receive aid if they qualify for it.

As the cost of programs, services and other student support increases and income from university endowments fall, some of Yale’s peer schools have announced more aggressive hikes. Cornell will raise its student tuition and fees 4.4 percent to $52,316 next year, while Stanford announced earlier this month that its tuition and room and board will top $50,000 next year for the first time after a 3.5 percent rise in tuition.

Others schools have taken a more conservative tack. Dartmouth recently announced a tuition, room and board increase rate of 4.6 percent, the lowest increase in five years, bringing total costs to $52,275, though financial aid took a hit when the college reinstituted a student loans program. Princeton’s 3.3 percent tuition increase for next year is only a slight climb from the record-low 2.9 percent increase the university approved last year. It subsequently supplanted Yale as the cheapest Ivy.

Most private institutions are restraining their tuition increases, said Sandy Baum, a professor of economics at Skidmore College and a College Board policy analyst. But it is difficult for any school to restrict growth to the rate of inflation, she added, because colleges and universities add programs, buildings and student services at extra cost every year.

At the same time, she said, financial aid has helped to offset the burden of increased tuition for many students.

“If you look at the average price students pay after taking financial aid into account, it’s a much slower rate of increase than the sticker price,” she said.

Yale’s endowment lost 24.6 percent of its value in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.