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Thursday, Oct. 02, 2014

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Trustees hold the line on tuition, approve funding for key initiatives

At their Jan. 21 meeting, Princeton University's trustees adopted a 2007-08 operating budget that holds tuition at its current level but raises undergraduate room and board rates for an overall fee increase of 4.2 percent.

This is the first year since 1967-68 that the annual tuition rate has not increased. The overall fee increase is well below last year's overall increase of 4.9 percent and the previous year's increase of 5 percent.

The operating budget includes funding for a new child-care benefit for faculty and staff, which is part of a larger effort to make Princeton a more "family-friendly" environment. It also includes, among other initiatives, increased funds for special salary adjustments for faculty and staff, financial support for Ph.D. students who bear children, provision of a winter break allowance for international undergraduates, and 24-hour, seven-day-per-week onsite monitoring of the University's computing systems.

Because of strong performance by the University's investments and generous giving by alumni, the operating budget incorporates more funding for new initiatives this year than in recent years. While funding for several of these initiatives was recommended by the Priorities Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community, others are supported by recently approved increases in the University's endowment spending or by the phasing in of a planned expansion of the undergraduate student body.

"The Priorities Committee is delighted that the University's financial circumstances allowed the trustees to approve its recommendations for addressing highest priority needs, and that other needs are being addressed through the additional endowment spending and the growth of the budget as a result of the increased size of the student body," said Provost Christopher Eisgruber, who chairs the Priorities Committee. "We also were pleased that these circumstances provided an opportunity for the trustees to adopt more accurate charges for room and board while holding tuition level for the coming year."

In adopting a 2007-08 operating budget of nearly $1.1 billion, the trustees acted on a proposal from President Shirley M. Tilghman that was based on the recommendations of the Priorities Committee. Composed of faculty, students and staff, the committee has served for more than three decades as the mechanism for recommending fiscal and programmatic priorities.

"Like its predecessors, this year's committee considered the University's tuition and fee package in light of the University's commitment to the accessibility of higher education to all qualified students," the committee stated in its report. It noted approvingly that "over the past 10 years, the annual rate of increase to that package has been at the bottom end of the University's peer group."

According to the College Board, tuition and fees rose 5.9 percent at four-year private institutions and 6.3 percent at four-year public institutions in 2006-07.

For 2007-08, tuition at Princeton will remain $33,000. Total fees for undergraduates living on campus and electing full meal contracts will increase from $42,200 to $43,980, while students who elect reduced meal contracts will pay less.

The increases in room and board pricing are intended to reflect costs more accurately. In recent years, these costs incorporated substantial University subsidies, according to the Priorities Committee report. The new board charges also reflect planned improvements in quality and changes to the board plan structure.

The budget for Princeton's groundbreaking financial aid program will be increased enough to cover all additional room and board charges for students who qualify for aid. The University has significantly enhanced its aid program in recent years in an effort to make a Princeton education even more affordable, including replacing all required loans with grants that do not need to be repaid. This year the average grant for a freshman on financial aid is more than $30,000. Last fall the trustees reduced the work requirement in financial aid packages, resulting in a $500 grant increase for those with jobs in their awards.

These efforts have dramatically increased the economic diversity of Princeton's student body. Of this year's freshman class, 55 percent, or 682 students, are on financial aid. That percentage matches the record set by the class of 2009 and is a significant change from the class of 2001 -- the last class admitted before the enhancements to the aid program -- when 38 percent of the freshmen were on aid.

Child care and other improvements

In making its programmatic recommendations, the Priorities Committee noted that it operated under a much more favorable set of budgetary conditions than committees of the past two years, due primarily to increases in the University's endowment income spending that were approved by the trustees in June and November 2006. The first change was intended to "true up" the operating budget, providing permanent funds for many continuing charges that had been supported through term funds or capital reserves. The second change involved major investments in capital items as well as in the operating budget in the critical areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, faculty research and alumni affairs.

"The trustees' allocations focused on core pedagogical and research efforts of the University," the Priorities Committee said in its report. "This focus allowed and encouraged the committee to pay substantial attention to the University's staff and its administrative support, both of which are critical to the University's mission but received less direct support from the spending rule changes."

The key initiatives include:

• A child-care benefit intended to assist employees with pre-kindergarten children whose family income does not exceed $130,000 and who do not have a non-working spouse or partner who can take on primary responsibility for child care. "The benefit advances a major priority of the University and of President Shirley Tilghman, who has indicated her commitment to making Princeton a more 'family-friendly' environment," the committee wrote.

The awards are based on household income, are portable and can be used to pay for a wide range of possible arrangements, from in-home care to licensed day care centers. The maximum award per year for one eligible child is $5,000; an additional $1,000 grant per year is available for a second eligible child.

The deadline to submit applications for the new program is May 1 for the fiscal year beginning July 1. More information about the new child-care benefit for faculty and staff is available on the Office of Human Resources website.

A similar child-care assistance program for students is being funded by the spending rule change. The deadline to submit applications for the student program for the 2007-08 academic year is July 1. More information is available on the Graduate School website.

Financial support for Ph.D. students who give birth during their graduate study at Princeton. This includes tuition, stipend and medical coverage through the student health plan during a three-month suspension of academic work.

• An increase to the promotion and adjustment pools that are used to cover the costs of employee promotions and reclassifications, and to respond to salary offers from outside employers. This measure, along with sustaining the size of last year's salary increase pools into the coming year, is intended to recognize "the critical importance of competitive compensation to attracting and retaining the very best faculty and staff members," according to the committee.

• An annual grant for international students to help cover costs during the winter break.

• The addition of two staff members in the Office of Information Technology Operations and Support Center to expand its service to include onsite monitoring of the University's computing and network infrastructure 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Among other requests recommended by the Priorities Committee and approved by the trustees were: funding for additional graduate student instructional assistance; a new assistant dean of students to deal with student discipline and crisis management; and a half-time office assistant in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center.

Continuing benefits from endowment, enrollment expansion

Throughout its report and in looking ahead, the committee noted several areas that would continue to benefit from the increases in the University's endowment income spending.

In November, for example, trustees approved measures that will provide all juniors and seniors on financial aid with sufficient support to allow them to cover the cost of an average membership contract at an eating club. The changes also will support increased funding for assistants in instruction in graduate-level courses, which will add to the funding for instructional assistance approved through the Priorities Committee. In addition, they will provide expanded social, cultural, intellectual and civic engagement programming in the residential colleges.

The committee pointed out in its report that a portion of the income generated by additional tuition from the increased student body will be used to expand academic and administrative support to meet the additional demand generated by the larger number of incoming students. One area identified in this year's Priorities Committee report for such support was University Health Services.

As recommended by the Wythes Committee report in 2000, the University is planning to increase the size of its enrolled undergraduate student body by approximately 11 percent, from 4,700 to 5,200, by the 2012-13 academic year. The entering classes in fall 2007 and 2008 each are expected to enroll about 1,260 -- some 30 students more than the current freshman class.

The Priorities Committee report is available online in pdf format as well as from the Office of the Provost.

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