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College costs increase nationwide

As students and their parents have learned, it is going to cost more to attend Stetson University next year.

TuitionIncreaseStetson’s Board of Trustees recently approved a 4.5 percent ($1,710) increase in undergraduate tuition to $39,690 while keeping student fees at $350, which will bring the annual bill to $40,040. Although the increase may not be welcome, it is in line with national trends. According to a survey by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, tuition and fees at the nation’s private schools rose by 3.9 percent last year.

And that’s the good news. The survey shows that tuition and fees are rising at the lowest rate in at least 40 years. Prior to 2008, increases in tuition at the nation’s private schools averaged six percent per year for a 10-year period.

Stetson’s success over the past few years has played a part in the need to increase tuition, according to university administration. In 2013, Stetson had its largest incoming class in the history of the university with more than 900 new students. A burgeoning athletics program played a part in that success, as did a concentrated effort by admissions and marketing to attract new students. The flip side is that more students drive up not only costs but other needs as well.

“These increases in enrollment are welcome and help create a more robust academic program with new faculty, enhanced academic support, technology advancement and other expenses that tuition doesn’t completely cover,” said Robert Huth, chief financial officer. In fact, Stetson spends more on educating each student than what is collected for tuition.

Where tuition dollars goAccording to Huth, Stetson spends $51,067 per student on tuition-related costs. The difference between what is spent and the new tuition rate is 21.6 percent – a difference that is covered largely by endowment, donor gifts and grants to the university. These funds help to increase the value of a Stetson education as well as help care for its facilities. Several large renovation projects — including HVAC, roofs, faculty offices and classrooms — are planned for Elizabeth, Emily, Chaudoin, McMahan, Nemec and University halls.

While Stetson is tackling the work that comes with growth, students can stay focused on their reason for being here: education. To get the most out of the college experience, Provost Beth Paul, Ph.D., suggests that students capitalize on one of Stetson’s most important investments — its professors.

“Take full advantage of the time, knowledge and research activity that professors invest in their students both in and out of the classroom. Capitalize on the expertise that surrounds you,” said Paul. “This experience makes a Stetson education valuable for a lifetime.”