Low tuition increase scales back some NU projects

Christina Chaey

After Northwestern’s Board of Trustees approved a tuition increase of 3.6 percent – the lowest increase in more than 40 years – the university will have to look elsewhere for much-needed funds, said Al Cubbage, vice president for university relations, on Wednesday.

The university will also see a 10 percent increase in financial aid funding, said University President Henry Bienen in a letter to the NU community Wednesday.

Although the university will increase the financial aid budget from the current $78 million to $86 million for next year, the number of incoming freshmen who are applying for financial aid is up by about 20 percent from last year, Cubbage said. The increase in financial aid funding also considers the anticipated need of returning students who may or may not currently receive aid. Cubbage said he anticipates that students who are currently receiving aid will, on average, demonstrate more need in the next academic year.

The Office of Financial Aid will have a more comprehensive idea of how financial aid will be distributed among both incoming and returning students after the May 1 deadline to file all aid materials, though there have been existing trends, said Michael Mills, associate provost for university enrollment.

“We know it’s going to be more people, at least, applying for financial aid,” he said. “What we don’t know is how many of them will qualify.”

Historically, the university’s annual financial aid and tuition increases have matched, making this an unusual year for the university, Cubbage said.

“It’s very unusual and obviously very expensive for the university to increase tuition by only 3.6 percent but increase financial aid by triple that amount,” he said. “You have to find that money for the financial aid from other places than from tuition increases.”

To save money, the university will also delay several large-scale building projects, limit salary increases and require all academic and administrative areas to scale back operating expenses by 3 percent, Bienen wrote.

The reduction in operating expenses, which normally sees a 2 percent increase annually, will amount to a 5 percent cut. Requests for additional faculty and staff, as well as the development of new programs, will be “scrutinized carefully,” Bienen wrote.

For Weinberg freshman Sophia Theodossiou, the recent announcements have only confirmed that the global crisis is “hitting closer to home.”

Theodossiou, who currently receives financial aid and is requesting it again for next year, said she expects to receive the same package next year.

“The e-mail kind of made it sound like (my aid) wouldn’t decrease,” she said. “So I figure that because my situation has stayed the same but the tuition’s increased, that mine will at least stay the same.”

Because the university anticipates that more families will demonstrate greater individual levels of need, those families will be feeling the impact for the next few years.

“I feel very grateful that we’re at the end of our time at NU rather than at the beginning,” said Fran Abramson, mother of Weinberg junior Jonathan Rosenblatt. “I think for the families that are coming in, the next 10 years are going to be a big struggle.”

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