Princeton trustees approve lowest fee package increase in 45 years

Princeton University trustees Jan. 22 approved the lowest increase in undergraduate tuition and fees in 45 years -- 1 percent -- in recognition of the challenging economic environment that continues to affect students and their families.

Provost Christopher Eisgruber said the decision to minimize the increase in the undergraduate fee package reflected several factors: high unemployment; low inflation; positive investment returns by Princeton's endowment in the last fiscal year; and the strong performance of the 2009-10 Annual Giving fundraising campaign.

"In a year when Princeton had done relatively well and many families continued to struggle, we felt it appropriate to hold down the increase to the fee package to levels consistent with the very low inflation rates experienced by the University," Eisgruber said.

Princeton's undergraduate charges for 2011-12 will include: $37,000 for tuition, a 1 percent increase from $36,640 in 2010-11; $6,596 for room, up 2 percent from $6,467; and no increase for board, which will remain at $5,473 from the previous year. The charges represent the lowest increase to the University's fee package since 1966, when there was no increase.

Next year's budget also reflects the University's continuing commitment to its groundbreaking undergraduate financial aid program. The financial aid budget for 2011-12 of $110 million will allow Princeton to continue to meet the full need of all admitted students without requiring students to take out any loans. This year the average grant for a student on financial aid is approximately $36,000.

The economic diversity of Princeton's student body has increased dramatically due to the enhancements to the aid program over recent years. It is expected that the percentage of next year's freshman class on aid will remain steady at 60 percent, the figure for the current freshman class. In comparison, 38 percent of freshmen received aid in the class of 2001, the last class admitted before the improvements were enacted.

The trustees also approved a 1 percent ($360) increase in the regular graduate tuition, from $36,640 to $37,000, the same as undergraduate tuition; a comparable ($20) increase in the Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) graduate tuition, from $2,780 to $2,800; an average increase of 2 percent in room rates, and no increase in board rates at the Graduate College; and an average increase in renewal rental rates of 2.3 percent for graduate student apartments. In addition, they approved a 3 percent increase in graduate student stipends.

The Student Health Plan fee will rise from $1,450 to $1,620, reflecting the need to offset rapidly rising medical costs

Creativity and discipline

The fee packages are part of a 2011-12 overall balanced operating budget of $1.45 billion adopted by the board at its Jan. 22 meeting. The trustees acted on a proposal from President Shirley M. Tilghman that was based on the recommendations of the Priorities Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community. Composed of faculty, students and staff, the committee has served for four decades as the mechanism for recommending fiscal and programmatic priorities.

"In the two years preceding this one, the Priorities Committee convened during the most severe economic crisis in memory," said Eisgruber, who chairs the committee. "This year's committee met in circumstances that were considerably more encouraging but nevertheless still unusual and precarious."

Eisgruber noted that a two-year plan launched in the spring of 2009 to reduce the University's operating budget by $170 million "has brought us through the worst of the economic crisis."

"Many members of the University community joined efforts to help us get beyond the very challenging recessionary conditions of the past two years," he said. "Managers and employees, faculty members and students identified and implemented cost savings with a potent combination of creativity and discipline."

In addition to limiting tuition and fee increases, next year's budget will include funds allocated for larger salary pools for faculty and staff, as well as a total of $500,000 for several high-priority programmatic improvements.

After two years of constraints, the University's salary pools will be restored to pre-recession levels in 2011-12. The increase will permit managers to make merit-based rewards for achievements of faculty and staff members, and will enable the University to be more competitive in recruiting and retaining employees.

"Improved pools are essential if Princeton is to attract and retain the outstanding talent on which the quality of the University depends," Eisgruber said.

In considering programmatic funding allocations, the committee "limited its attention to proposals that advanced new University initiatives or responded to new needs, rather than those that might alleviate the pressures and challenges associated with the recent round of budget cuts," Eisgruber said.

Programmatic enhancements that will receive funding include:

  • the addition of two full-time staff members in the Office of Career Services to focus on employment opportunities in the arts, nonprofits, foundations and government agencies, and to strengthen students' connections with alumni;
  • the addition of a full-time staff member in the Office of Human Resources to provide employee training, and support for additional learning and development programs for employees;
  • enhanced conservation efforts for the campus art collection;
  • the addition of a half-time position in the Davis International Center to support the University's internationalization efforts;
  • the extension of employee mass-transit subsidies to graduate students, reflecting the University's sustainability goals; and
  • support for additional teaching hours for graduate students to meet increased demand due to the expansion of the undergraduate student body and higher enrollments in science and laboratory courses.

Looking forward, Eisgruber said the University administration will continue to take cost-savings suggestions from campus community members, and a new subcommittee of the Priorities Committee will annually review the previous year's cost-cutting measures and offer new savings proposals.

"In the wake of the recession, the University's capacity to pursue new initiatives and advance its mission effectively will depend more than ever before on its ability to find creative efficiencies and cost savings," he said.

The Priorities Committee report is available for download in PDF format as well as from the Office of the Provost.