Bowdoin hikes costs by 50 percent since 1993
Bowdoin students seem to be shelling out more and more money every year for tuition to attend one of the nation's premiere liberal arts colleges. According to USA Today, "The average cost of tuition and fees at private colleges and universities, also adjusted for inflation, has grown 42 percent during the last ten years."
Bowdoin's tuition, including room and board, has increased five percent in the past year alone. According to Catherine Longley, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer of the College, "The main reason the tuition rose last year was because of operating costs. The three significant components of these costs are salaries, employee benefits, and energy utilities."
In a recent study by CNN, Bowdoin ranked sixth in the country for highest tuition. Although it falls in the top ten for highest tuition, if one looks at the rankings of the nation's comprehensive fees (tuition plus room and board) Bowdoin is not in the top 20.
"This is a better benchmark of how we compare to our peer schools because most students who attend colleges like Bowdoin are paying the comprehensive fee, not just the tuition," Longley said.
Sixty percent of the total operating budget is spent on salaries and benefits like health insurance that totaled $92 million.
This year, energy utilities went up as well faculty salaries along with benefits such as health insurance. About $14 million is spent on faculty and $24 million on administration and support staff.
The health care costs went up about 12 percent from last year and the fuel insurance rates also increased. Other major categories of expenses are facilities management and major maintenance ($3.57 million), debt service payments ($4.9 million), and technology ($6.5 million).
The major challenges in maintaining the tuition are keeping faculty compensation and academic programs competitive, controlling health care and benefits costs, and maintaining and improving the campus.
The operating budget is made up of two major factors: tuition and endowment. Last year, the operating budget was made up of 22 percent endowment funds. This year Bowdoin's endowment is at $452 million and went up nine percent from last year. Fifty three percent of the operating budget comes from tuition.
Even though Bowdoin's tuition is $30,120 the actual amount of money spent on a student per year is closer to $65,000. The difference is usually subsidized by the endowment.
Bowdoin falls in the AA category, a ranking established by a bond rating. This means that 45 percent of Bowdoin's total revenue is dependent on tuition.
Harvard University, on the other hand, is under the triple A category, which means that only 25 percent of its revenue is dependent on tuition; hence their endowment is larger than Bowdoin's.
When operating costs go up, Bowdoin's tuition increases more in comparison to other schools because its revenue is more dependent on tuition.
"From my viewpoint of student aid, one of the reasons tuition goes up is because of cost increase. We have an obligation to our continuing financial aid students to meet their need. If the budgets go up and their financial situations don't change then we have to account for that," said Gary Weaver, Associate Director of Student Aid.
State budget cuts on education don't really affect Bowdoin students since it is a private college, but they can affect students' state scholarships that are determined by the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). If a student's state scholarship is cut, it is Bowdoin's duty to make up for that.
Every year the Financial Aid office tries to account for these cuts and build in a lower expectation for state grant support so that they will have enough financial aid to meet everyone's needs.
Most outside scholarships for Bowdoin students, however, come from privately funded scholarships. State scholarships last year were $115,000, while Bowdoin students brought about $1 million from privately funded scholarships.
"It is also important to remember that Bowdoin is competing for the best and brightest students. These students are looking for the best dorms, the best junior year abroad programs, and other facilities that all have cost associated with them," Weaver said.
Congressman Buck McKeon, a Republican from California, has drafted a bill to try to control the rates of increase in tuition for private colleges.
In his report, McKeon said, "These cost increases are pricing students and families out of the college market, and forcing prospective students to 'trade down' in their postsecondary educational choices because options that may have been affordable years ago have now been priced out of reach."