Tuition Spikes, College Now Most Expensive in Ivy League

As tuition rockets up another 5.9%, let us give thanks for our unionized friends.The recently announced 5.9% increase in Dartmouth’s tuition, room, board, and fees for the 2011-12 academic year might come as a surprise to Dartmouth students and parents, following several years of much more manageable, albeit still significant, increases.  Following increases of 4.6-4.9%, this year’s 5.9% hike in the cost of a Dartmouth education seems unprecedented, particularly with the inflation rate at 1.5%.  Perhaps more troubling, however, is the fact after this announcement, Dartmouth’s $55,365 tuition and fees are now the highest of the seven Ivy League schools that have released next year’s costs.  While President Kim asserts that the costs are necessary to “provide our students with the highest quality… experience” one would believe that the administrators in Hanover could keep costs closer to the range of peer institutions, with Harvard and Yale both keeping total costs below $53,000, and Princeton only increasing tuition and fees by 1 percent for next year, to stay below $50,000.  Add to that the low costs of living in Hanover compared to other Ivy League towns, and the College’s costs start to indicate serious inefficiency.

The overall increases do not tell the entire story—room, board and fees will increase by an astounding 10.83%.  Included in this is a new $800 general fee for all students to support “growing library needs, information services and recreational activities.”  One might ask, however, what the new fee could possibly cover that is not already part of the $1,377 of yearly fees for class dues (“free” barbeques) and student activities, such as the numerous events that many dismisses as annoying blitzes.  The additional increases—room and board—must be attributable to the “gift” of the renovated Class of 1953 Commons.  As housing at the College certainly hasn’t improved since last year, the higher cost of meal plans, such as the new mandatory freshmen 20-meals-per-week plan that was recently announced at an annual price of $4,884, is a major contributor to Dartmouth’s higher costs for the coming year.  Thus the Class of 1953 Commons, which was touted as an alumni gift that would pay for its own operating and financing costs through various savings, is leading next year’s freshman to pay over 26% more for on-campus dining than this year’s class paid (assuming, in both cases, the minimum allowable dining plans).
With fiscal crises across the country and serious questions about the cost structure of higher education, Dartmouth’s latest announcement is surely not a reassuring sign.  Dartmouth tuition stood at approximately $2000 just thirty years ago, and by allowing inefficiency to drive the costs to today’s level, our College is certainly not setting a good precedent for sustained affordability of a Dartmouth degree for future generations.   

Harry Greenstone