Hopkins to raise tuition by 7.2%

U.S. budget cuts also increase cost of student loans

December 23, 2005|By LIZ BOWIE | LIZ BOWIE,SUN REPORTER

The Johns Hopkins University's announcement this week that it will increase its tuition for next year by 7.2 percent - the largest percentage increase since 1987 - will assure the school its place among some of the nation's most expensive.

With its new tuition of $33,900, Hopkins is pricey, but likely not pricey enough to earn a spot among the 10 most expensive colleges and universities in a listing by The Chronicle of Higher Education this fall. Among those on the list were George Washington University at $36,400, and Sarah Lawrence, Kenyon and Vassar, whose tuitions of more than $33,000 could also go higher next year.

"It really is not as daunting as you might think when you first see the price tag," said Tina Bjarekull, president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association. With student loans and financial aid, she said, private colleges can be affordable.

Congress might have made that process more difficult when it cut student aid by $12.7 billion this week, raising interest rates on student loans and giving banks lower subsidies for the loan program.

The cuts, Republicans argued, would largely be borne by banks and other lenders, an idea disputed by Democrats who said that students and their families would feel the pinch.

"This is the biggest cut in the history of the federal student loan program," said David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, an umbrella group for public and private colleges and universities.

A council lobbyist, Becky H. Timmons, said, "Students will be paying higher interest rates than they are currently paying."

The rate would be fixed at 6.8 percent for students and 8.5 percent for parents. The current rates, which vary with market conditions, are several percentage points lower.

About 80 percent of students who attend private institutions in Maryland get some sort of financial aid, Bjarekull said. Most institutions try to help families put together financing so that students don't graduate with debt that becomes overwhelming, she said.

On the Hopkins undergraduate Web site is the question, "Can I afford Hopkins?" The answer, the school tells parents, is to file an application for financial aid.

Other colleges and universities have tried different approaches to steady the nerves of parents facing the college tuition bill.

For instance, George Washington University will guarantee freshmen that their tuition won't go up over the four years they are taking classes.

Mirroring a national trend, Hopkins has slightly less than 40 percent of students paying full price, with most others getting need-based aid from the university. About 152 students receive a tuition break based on academic or athletic ability.

The Hopkins 7.2 percent increase might not sound so bad to the parents of students at the University of Maryland, where costs soared 30 percent over a recent period, making the school one of the most expensive state universities in the nation.

But Hopkins students will pay five times what in-state students do at College Park and nearly double the tuition of out-of-state students. And the price tag doesn't include room and board, which will bring the bill for the year to more than $43,000.

When compared with other research universities Hopkins considers among its peers, the university's tuition of $31,600 is in the middle of the price range: between $31,000 and $33,000. Harvard, for instance, is $32,100 this year.

Most colleges and universities haven't decided how much to raise tuition for next fall, but Hopkins wanted to get the word out as early as possible so that applicants could have advance warning, according to Johns Hopkins University spokesman Dennis O'Shea.

O'Shea said the increase is larger this year in part because Hopkins is in the middle of installing an expensive new security system for its students and faculty. Two students have been murdered in as many years off campus.

The killings were not the reason for new surveillance cameras and more campus police on patrol, O'Shea said. But "they have certainly caused us to take a harder look than we were taking at the security situation."

The college has already spent about $2 million and will spend another $1.9 million this school year to increase the number of cameras.

About 25 percent of the tuition increase will go to offer financial aid to students who need it and the remainder covers the cost of inflation. While that may seem counterintuitive, O'Shea said Hopkins is trying to raise more of an endowment so that it can increase student aid.

"We would like to become less tuition-dependent for our financial aid," he said.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

The New York Times News Service contributed to this article.

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