By: Alex Scott
Bellarmine University announced a 3.6 percent increase for undergraduate tuition for the 2018-19 academic year. That is a $725 increase in full- time undergraduate tuition and a $30 increase per credit hour for part- time undergraduates. There will also be a 2 percent increase in room and board. The graduate tuition increases will vary by program.
Bellarmine President Dr. Susan Donovan provided some reasoning behind the increases in an announcement that was sent to all the students, faculty and staff.
“We have invested in improving our career services, internships and alumni networking…We remain strident in our efforts toward even greater excellence and are embarking on a strategic planning effort,” Donovan said.
These increases were also called necessary to increase the value of the institution and the education for the students.
Donovan said: “As a community, we have worked diligently to continue to increase the value of the Bellarmine degree while keeping costs at a minimum… Our efforts provide a rigorous liberal arts education, nationally ranked and accredited academic programs, community service opportunities, campus ministry, study abroad experiences, clinical rotations, science and medical laboratories, experiential learning, the fine arts, student leadership, athletics and recreational opportunities.”
Bellarmine has experienced a budget “gap” this year due to the size of the current sophomore class. It is the smallest class on campus because there was a lower retention for these students from freshman to sophomore year.
Faculty will experience the effects of the university’s deficit, too as they will not have salary increases this year. The university’s contribution to the faculty’s retirement program will also be decreased.
“I had to announce to the faculty and staff that there would be no salary increases this year and that we would cut into their retirement, our contribution to their retirement just to make the budget meet,” Donovan said.
Donovan said she does not want large tuition increases to become a habit.
“I am concerned,” she said. “I don’t feel good about the 3.5 percent increased. It’s not sustainable. It’s not something I want to continue.”
Donovan is looking to minimize any future tuition increases of this size after the budget goals are met.
“We created this resource management advisory committee. They came up with 200 recommendations for either cost savings, new revenues, ways to reallocate money…We didn’t get into this situation in a year, and it takes awhile to correct itself,” Donovan said.
As the university works towards this correction, current students are facing some effects of the tuition increase. Sophomore Connor Clare is paying for his education on his own. Clare must make different arrangements for next year to keep attending Bellarmine.
“Next year I will not be able to afford living on campus, and I will be staying with family members that live relatively close to Bellarmine. I truly enjoy living on campus, but financially it is just not possible to remain in the dorms and pay for tuition,” Clare said.
Clare said he is also worried about how prospective students may respond to the increase.
“I have many friends in high school that look into Bellarmine and really enjoy the campus and the class sizes,” Clare said. “When I talk to them about Bellarmine, the No. 1 concern from every single person is the cost, and in the end, it is just that that pushes students away from Bellarmine.”
Although tuition is factor when prospective students choose a school, Vice President of Admissions Sean Paul said when tuition increases, financial aid can also be expected to increase.
“We can build that (tuition increase) into our financial aid as well, so typically when the tuition goes up, our financial aid goes up as well to help to minimize the impact it would have on the enrollment rate of students admitted,” Paul said.
Paul also said Bellarmine keeps the tuition increase history open to all students and parents so they can be better prepare for the four year experience.