Tuition and fees increase 6.4 percent for ’06-’07

by Andrea Kemp

The bad news? Simpson students will face a tuition increase of about 6.4 percent next year. The good news? Their financial aid will go up as well.

Simpson college administrators are currently at work on the budget. According to Ken Birkenholtz, vice president for business and finance, the overall increase in tuition would have been less if Simpson hadn’t increased financial aid an equal amount.

“One thing that you have to keep in mind with the overall increase, which was 6.4 percent for next year, is that we increase returning student aid by a like percent,” Birkenholtz said. “Most schools don’t do that. I did some calculations, just out of curiosity, and, had we not increased returning student aid, we could have had a four-percent increase, with the same bottom line. In other words, when we increase it six percent, we’re giving about a third of it back.”

For many Simpson students, the monetary aid Simpson can provide is a large factor in their decision to attend the college. Sophomore Julie Mallams is one of those students. According to Mallams, Simpson’s offer was just better.

“I looked at what it was going to be after I got financial assistance,” Mallams said. “It came down to a $2,000 difference between Simpson and another school. But Simpson gave me $2,000 more which is what made me decide to attend.”

So why increase tuition? According to Birkenholtz and President John Byrd, Simpson needs to remain competitive in the salary market in order to attract quality faculty members.

“One thing, of course, when we look at our total operating budget [is that] about 60 percent of that budget is salary and benefits,” Birkenholtz said. “So we’re always keen to be looking at how our salaries compare to be sure that we are providing salaries that are appropriate to attract the quality that we want to have on campus. That’s a big driver of our budget – the salary and benefits decisions.”

According to Byrd, tuition figures need to provide for salaries, which need to remain stable within a given year.

“When you’re talking about salaries you have to look at a period of time, because you can’t make substantive changes in the salary structure in one year,” Bryd said. “So you’re trying to set tuition at a level that will allow you to respond to a variety of needs, including faculty, administrator and staff salaries over time.”

For Mallams, a tuition increase in exchange for quality instructors is logical. Still, she worries how the increase will look to prospective families.

“With an expensive school, you’re going to expect more,” Mallams said. “So raising tuition in order to get higher quality professors, that makes sense. Monetary and financial issues are a big chunk of picking a college, I know, for the majority of families. I think $28,000 a year sounds like a lot more than $26,000, obviously.”

Birkenholtz said one factor governing this year’s increase was the additional student fee.

“I think one thing that needs to be pointed out for the increase for the coming year is under [the] student government fee,” Birkenholtz said. “That also includes the new $100 student center fee that the students requested be assessed. That makes the comprehensive fee increase 6.4 percent. Without that student fee of $100 it was actually six percent.”

Mallams believes that the overall amount of the student fee doesn’t contribute too much to the overall cost of attending Simpson, yet still affects the overall cost factor of funding a higher education.

“[It] isn’t that much more when you’re looking at tuition already being $28,000,” Mallams said. “But, still, there’s something more for everyone when you’re paying for your own tuition. [It] is money, more for the student fee.”

Raising tuition isn’t a decision the college makes quickly.

Budget discussions for the upcoming year begin in the fall and continue throughout the year. Birkenholtz said the process involves a number of administrators.

Another important factor in deciding Simpson’s tuition is its comparison to other private colleges in the area that compete with Simpson when recruiting students. Byrd said Simpson’s current tuition, as well as the expected tuition increase, is similar to other institutions’ increases.

“[There are] very similar increases as a group,” Byrd said. “Every school has a slightly different methodology for how they go about passing on the cost to students, but I would say our increases have been very similar to those other institutions which we compare ourselves against.”

According to Byrd, while tuition is a large investment, it’s one with a profitable return.

“A college education is still the best way to ensure a healthy financial future,” Byrd said. “I’ve seen recent numbers that suggest that, beyond a high school education, college graduates will earn a million dollars or more over their lifetime than high school graduates. So there’s a tremendous return on investment.”