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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Flagel: Univ exploring model of four percent tuition and fees increase

Published: February 28, 2013
Section: Front Page, News

One year after a tuition hike made Brandeis the second the most expensive college in the state, university officials are exploring the model of another 4 percent tuition and fees increase as part of their budget proposal at the March board of trustees meeting, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel said.

“What we’re looking at least in the short term future, but right now it’s how we’re modeling things out is trying to sustain student increases in costs right around that four percent range,” Flagel said. “Last year we were a little bit above, we’d like to be if we can a little bit below this year… At the moment in the models were doing we’re trying to keep things around that range.”

Because of last year’s hike, the Boston Business Journal ranked Brandeis second behind only Williams College and ahead of Boston College, Boston University and Babson College. But speaking to reporters at a briefing in the Shapiro Campus Center Thursday afternoon, Flagel said the anticipated increase in tuition and fees, which includes housing and dining, is in line with peer institutions and nationally Brandeis is actually no longer in the most expensive bracket. Statewide tuition rankings, he said, do not fairly account for Brandeis’ role as a national and global university.

“Because we’re a national and one can easily argue, … a global institution, the look is really much more where we sit nationally and in the national rankings, we’ve moved out of the very most expensive schools,” Flagel said. “I’d be delighted if the state would not have a list of the most expensive schools, but the reality is the kind of education that we’re providing … is not possible to run as a less expensive institution unless there was a radical shift in other support.”

Flagel said he expected the current proposal to include about a four percent hike for tuition and fees, for both returning and incoming students. Last year, the Board voted to increase tuition and fees on returning students 4.1 percent and incoming students 4.85 percent. Officials justified the tuition hike as necessary to pay for the reopening of the Rose Art Museum and the Linsey Pool, along with maintaining their commitment to student financial aid. New students paid more to account for pilot programs and more first year seminars.

In comparing Brandeis to peer institutions, Flagel said the university would explore options such as requiring more students to purchase meal plans and charging more for students who take larger course loads. At Brandeis, students have had significant input into meal plan options, and at other schools this has led to requiring more students to purchase one, he explained.

The university runs on an annual budget of approximately $320 million, with nearly half of those funds coming from undergraduate tuition and fee; 14 percent from graduate tuition and fees; 17 percent from research and foundation grants; 11 to 12 percent from endowment returns; and 5 to 6 percent from annual gifts.

Because nearly 90 percent of the budget is already determined each year from staff and operating costs, faculty and research expenditures and financial aid, there is little room for creativity when it comes to spending, Flagel said.

“There’s not a massive amount of wiggle room that we work with in that $320 million each year,” he said.

In addition to the tuition hike, officials are also looking at ways to adopt major cost cutting and efficiency initiatives, along with the university’s continued aggressive fundraising.

As a young institution, Brandeis is at a disadvantage from peer schools with much larger endowments and a broader alumni base. Because Brandeis receives significant financial support from friends of the university and largely a younger alumni base, development is particularly focused on encouraging high participation among alumni donations.

At its March meeting, the Board will vote on the budget proposal and also review a draft of the strategic plan, scheduled to be released online next Wednesday.

“What the Board’s really voting on is how much will we charge,” Flagel said.

He said the draft of the plan is about 80 pages long and emphasizes key principles such as the identity of a liberal arts research university, academic excellence and open inquiry, along with diversity and appreciation for the school’s Jewish history.


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article referred to a tuition increase. The model includes a tuition and fee increase.