Despite grappling with a national economic crisis and an endowment that earned minimal returns this fiscal year, Bowdoin administrators said they do not predict a tuition hike larger than normal for the 2009-2010 academic year.

"We're hoping that Bowdoin isn't in that league of having to increase tuition [more than usual], and that we can stay in the 4 to 5 percent range," Senior Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Katy Longley said.

"We believe that we can fashion a financial model of operations for the school that will allow us to maintain our tuition increases at about what they've been in the past," said President Barry Mills on Thursday.

Bowdoin's comprehensive fee—which includes tuition, room and board, and a student activities fee—has increased at least 5 percent each of the last five years. For the 2004-2005 academic year, the comprehensive fee totaled $39,680. This year's comprehensive fee totals $48,570, representing an increase of $8,890 over five years.

Last spring, the Trustees voted to increase tuition at the College 5 percent, or $2,310, for the 2008-09 academic year. The College sets tuition, as well as the annual budget, each spring when the Trustees convene on campus.

Mills said that even while factoring in the escalating costs of food and heating, tuition increases would likely stay consistent next year.

"I do think the [tuition increases] we've had...over the last number of years is probably where we'll end up," Mills said.

The forecasts of Mills and Longley come during a time when higher education officials are expressing concern that steep tuition increases are imminent.

President of the American Council on Education (ACE) Molly Corbett Broad, in a response to a College Board report on tuition and financial aid released this week, articulated concern that tuition at public and private colleges across the country would increase because of the worsening economic crisis.

"Even with efforts by institutions to consolidate programs and control spending, I am concerned that we are entering a period—as we did following the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s—when we will see a sharp spike in tuition prices at both public and private institutions," she wrote in a statement on the ACE's Web site.

"Private institutions...given the loss of endowment income and expected cutbacks in private giving, will likely be forced to increase tuition at the same time they struggle to increase institutional financial aid," she wrote. "Presidents and boards of trustees will be reluctant to increase tuition, but they will likely have little choice."

David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), expressed more uncertainty on how the poor economic climate would affect tuition.

"The volatile nature of the stock market, and the unknown impact of the election outcome on the nation's economic path, makes forecasting college pricing decisions difficult," he wrote on the NAICU Web site, adding that "most private colleges set tuition for the coming year during the winter or spring."

If Bowdoin does decide to raise tuition at a percentage comparable to last year, the College will still need to offset the hike by also increasing financial aid. Last year, when the College increased tuition 5 percent, it increased the financial aid budget 6 percent.

Director of Student Aid Steve Joyce explained that this is because "tuition has increased at a rate greater than most family incomes."

"When families cannot cover the tuition increase with increased earnings, there is more need and more demand [on] College grant support," he said.

Joyce said last week in an interview with the Orient that he "absolutely" expects the student aid budget to increase, though said it was too early to tell how large the increase would be.

Longley said that increases in tuition each year can generally be attributed to inflation and increases in payroll.

"I think primarily it's the function of payroll and faculty pay, which tends to outstrip inflation," she said. "To stay competitive, we pay our faculty competitively with our peers, many of whom are in urban areas."

Mills said that beyond salaries and benefits, the College is trying to keep operating expenses level. The 2008-2009 fiscal year operating budget for the College is $140,848,000.

"Do I think that people will get salary increases this year? The answer to that is yes...Our staff I'm hopeful will get modest raises this year. But on the operating expenses beyond salaries and benefits, I'm hoping that they are going to stay flat," he said.

-Cati Mitchell and Gemma Leghorn contributed to this report.