Increasing tuition includes new tech, student activity fees

Over the holiday break, Augustana announced a 4.5% tuition increase, added student fees and a new technology fee, totaling an extra $2,151 for students returning for the 2020-2021 academic year.

A university email said the new student costs were unanimously approved during the December Board of Trustees meeting, and based on research and data analysis that was conducted throughout the fall.

According to data provided by Shannan Nelson, chief financial officer and executive vice president for the university, tuition has increased every year. 

In 2019-2020, the total cost of attendance — which includes tuition, room, board and fees — increased by 1.82%, whereas the total cost for 2020-2021 increased by 5.12%. On average, the total cost of attendance has increased by about 4% each year over the past 14 years.

The Augustana Mirror originally reported on the tuition increase on Dec. 27. The following is a breakdown of common questions that students have asked in the wake of holiday break.

How do the costs break down?

For the 2019-2020 academic year, tuition is earmarked at $33,430. A 4.5 percent increase translates to an additional $1,504, or a total price tag of $34,934 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Additionally, the general student fee will increase by $160 and include a new student technology fee of $260. This means that the $530 student fee from 2019-2020 will almost double to $950 in 2020-2021.

Room and board fees will also have an added $226, increasing from $8,057 in 2019-2020 to $8,283 in 2020-2021.

Nelson said that the cost of tuition increases each year based on how much cash will be needed to finance university operating costs and enrollment. For 2019-2020, the university did not meet its enrollment target.

How are scholarships affected?

According to Nelson, academic scholarships for incoming freshmen, such as the Dean and Trustees, will increase by a comparative percentage to the tuition increase. Scholarships for current students will not increase.

Scholarships outside of academics, including fine arts and athletics, will not be affected.

What will the increased student activity fee and new technology fee be used for?

According to the university email, additional student fee costs will be used to “provide program support for student activities, health and wellness, campus life, campus safety [and] student recreation.”

Nelson emphasized mental health as one of the initiatives funded by the increased student fee.

“If we’re going to grow [these programs], how can we partner with the students to offer more?” Nelson said. “We felt like, to do that, we would need a larger increase to the general fee.”

Nelson also said the technology fee would be primarily used to expand the connectivity of campus. Currently, the university uses 1G, but plans to double the connectivity to 2G. This means that students wouldn’t be disconnected from Wi-Fi when walking between campus buildings.

Nelson said the university has plans to eventually reach 10G.

What “student leaders” were involved in the process?

Three of the student leaders consulted on the tuition increase included seniors Trey Waldrop, Hosea Kost and Logan Hattervig.

According to Waldrop, their portion included attending a meeting with Nelson on Dec. 4, two days before the tuition increase was voted on by the Board of Trustees. Here, the students discussed how best to deliver the tuition news to the student body.

“I think it was clear that no one would be happy about an increase in the cost of attendance,” Waldrop said. “The idea was that if people understood why it had to be this way, they might be more receptive — maybe not happy, but understanding, at least.”

The decision was ultimately made to announce the increase during winter break instead of waiting to tell students as they arrived on campus for the spring semester.

Waldrop said the price would be made available to incoming freshmen starting at the beginning of the year, and so it made the best sense to announce it to the student body at the same time.

“What we haven’t done as well, administratively, is partnering with the student groups sooner in the process,” Nelson said. “What we’ve promised is to start doing informational sessions and meetings with student leadership groups, so that by the time [that] we reach conclusions, peer groups will already be aware of the alternatives that we’ve been considering to make the decision.”

For students who have more questions about 2020-2021 tuition, forums will be held on Feb. 17 at 9 p.m. in Froiland Science Center (FSC) 114, Feb. 25 at noon in the 3-in-1 Room and Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in FSC 114.

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