Loyola University Chicago plans to increase undergraduate tuition by 4 percent next academic year, meaning current freshman, sophomore and junior students will owe the university between $1,492 and $1,565 more in 2016-2017.
This increase applies to both incoming and returning students — an across-the-board approach the university hasn’t used in four years, said interim President John Pelissero at the State of the University Address Feb. 8. Past tuition increases have varied between incoming and continuing students, with an annual 5 percent increase for incoming freshman students, and a 2 to 3 percent increase for the other grades.
“The logic behind [varied tuition increases] was that we had many new student facilities under construction … since many continuing students were walking around the construction sites rather than being able to use them, we decided to have a lower [tuition increase] for them,” said Pelissero.
With the tuition increase will come a 2.5 percent raise in on-campus housing rates.
As a result of past tuition increases, tuition costs differ between freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes. The new tuition increase is expected to gradually make tuition uniform for all undergrads, he said.
Current tuition for this year’s freshman class is $39,130 and $37,300 for this year’s junior class. With the 4 percent jump, those same classes will be paying $40,695 as sophomores and $38,792 as seniors, respectively, during the next academic year.
Freshman Paul Risteca said he thinks this increase goes against the school’s Jesuit ideal to provide more people access to a college education and that this could affect the university’s retention rates.
“I’m looking at it, not even from the fact that my tuition is going to go up way more than it should, but more so from the standpoint of we’re probably going to lose students,” said the 18-year-old bioinformatics major. “There are plenty of students here, and I am one of them, who [find it] hard to make ends meet and find a way to afford to go to this school.”
Pelissero, however, said he doesn’t expect students would “make a decision to leave because of a 1.5 percent larger increase in tuition.”
As tuition costs rise, Loyola continues to receive more applications than ever before. As tuition climbs, application numbers climb, too, according to university data. With a price tag of $40,700 for next year’s incoming class, freshmen application rates have increased by 7 percent from last year, Pelissero said. Enrollment deposits are up 6 percent from last year.
For those burdened by the increase, there will be options for additional financial aid to support them, Pelissero said. This aid includes institutional aid in the form of grants, he said, and students can apply for FAFSA for additional support.
While Loyola offers its own forms of financial aid, Risteca said a 4 percent increase now is “uncalled for,” given Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s expected decision to veto a bill funding the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant, an award based on financial need for Illinois residents.
The state’s MAP grants did not receive any funding for the current school year because of the budget impasse at the state house, as previously reported by The PHOENIX. While a bill to fund the grants has been proposed, a spokesperson for Rauner said the governor is planning to veto the proposal.
This means about 2,000 Loyola students are unsure if they will receive their grants in the next academic year.
Keeping Loyola competitive with other universities isn’t the only reason to increase tuition costs, but it is largely considered, according to Munson. Compared to 28 other Jesuit universities across the U.S., Loyola is the 12th most expense, he said. At the top of that list is Boston College, with a tuition of $50,000 for incoming freshman.
In Chicago, tuition for this academic year ranged from $13,670 at the University of Illinois at Chicago to $50,193 at the University of Chicago, as previously reported in The PHOENIX. Again, Loyola’s tuition fell somewhere in the middle.
“We want to maintain the quality of the academic programs,” said Munson explaining the various reasons for tuition rate increases to a group of student leaders during a meeting the week before Pelissero announced the increase. “We want to provide [students] with the highest quality of education we can in the most state-of-the art facilities as possible.”
The meeting — which consisted of about 10 student leaders in areas such as Residence Life and the Student Government of Loyola Chicago — was planned to communicate and explain to students the new tuition increase before Pelissero formally announced the university’s decision. Students expressed concern about MAP-receiving students and retention rates; they asked questions about financial aid resources and Loyola’s financial security.
Munson said that over the last few years, measures have been taken to provide students the best quality education possible. These included increased students’ services, the launch of the engineering and science program last fall, hiring of new faculty and a push for full-time faculty, as opposed to adjunct faculty, to teach core curriculum classes.
Attracting top-level faculty is another reason for increasing tuition rates, he said.
“These faculty cost money,” Munson said. “We can’t hire at a lower rate because we’re going after the best quality professors that we can attract.”
The average Loyola tenure faculty member earns an annual salary of about $70,000, Pelissero said in a previous interview with The PHOENIX. The average non-tenured, full-time faculty member earns about $60,000. Pelissero added that to retain the best professors, Loyola offers an annual raise of about 3 percent.
“Salaries are our largest expense,” Munson said. “Last year — fiscal year 2015 — about $300 million dollars were paid out in salaries. Financial aid is our second biggest expense, and that was about $152 million.”
Risteca said while he loves his school, he wishes student opinion had greater impact on the university’s decisions.
“So whether that be the elected representatives of our student body — SGLC — or just a random panel of students [who] very much so represents our demographic, I feel that our voice should have much more of an impact in what happens, especially when it comes to our money, our education and, ultimately, our future,” he said.