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Tuition 2018-2019: Up, Up and Away

CPI 1998-2017.jpgThe Trustees will announce next year’s tuition increase in February as is their wont, and it promises to be a doozie. Though Phil made fashionable noises when he arrived in Hanover about “super-inflationary tuition increases” being “unsustainable,” since then College tuition has gone up every year far beyond the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). That said, such behavior is nothing new: Dartmouth Presidents (like everyone in higher education) have mumbled the same words, and then defaulted when it came time to send out bills.

Though the Labor Department shows inflation having been 50.87% between 1998 and 2017, Dartmouth’s tuition climbed by 124.95% over the same time frame:

Dartmouth Tuition Growth 1998-2017.jpg

But Phil does not look at the CPI — even though that is the index by which we all live and die in the real world. His lodestar is the Common Fund’s Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), which jumped 3.7% this year (versus 1.8% last year), the highest increase since 2008:

HEPI 2017 Commonfund Comp.jpg

We can expect an increase from the College for the 2018-2019 academic year of well over 4%, though the beancounter in Phil might finesse things and only go up 3.9% (even though the CPI increased by only 2.23% over the past year). Last year’s increase for tuition, room and board, and fees was 2.9% — up to $68,109. That number will be eclipsed by an increase that brings the cost for undergraduates in 2018-2019 to close to $71,000/year. Unsustainable, Phil?

Addendum: Though HEPI reflects costs in higher education, using the cost structure of an area of the economy that is notorious for poor management is hardly helpful for families whose wages more closely reflect the CPI. Commonfund described HEPI’s methodology as follows:

The Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) is an inflation index designed specifically for use by institutions of higher education. Compiled from data reported by government agencies and industry sources, HEPI measures the average relative level in the price of a fixed market basket of goods and services purchased by colleges and universities each year through current fund educational and general expenditures, excluding research. A more accurate indicator of cost changes for colleges and universities than the Consumer Price Index (CPI), HEPI is used primarily to project future budget increases required to preserve purchasing power.

See the full 2017 HEPI report here.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

I read your story on rising tuition with amazement. Dartmouth is a great college, but tuition close to $71,000 per year? Being from an upper-middle class family, I did not receive any financial aid, and frankly when it was roughly $62,000 per year for me, my parents were highly reluctant to send me to Dartmouth, and it was a burden on my family. I also felt bad about having my family spend this much on my education, when I could have gone to many nearly-as-good colleges for a fraction of the price.

If I were admitted today, and asked to have my parents spend $71,000, I probably would just take the full ride that I got from a middle-tier liberal arts college in my own state. Four times $71,000 is $284,000… that truly reaches a point where attending Dartmouth would probably not have been worth it to me considering my family’s own finances, I am sorry to say. Sad that Dartmouth has allowed this to happen.


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