Undergraduate tuition to rise 3.75 percent for 2016-17

The cost of undergraduate tuition at Cornell will rise 3.75 percent in the 2016-17 academic year, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced Feb. 11. Endowed college students and out-of-state contract college students will pay $50,712. Tuition for New York state residents enrolled in the contract colleges will be $33,968. The tuition rate was approved by the Cornell University Board of Trustees at its January meeting.

Kotlikoff explained that in determining the tuition increase, the administration must balance its commitment to provide access for deserving students regardless of their ability to pay with its need also to provide sufficient operating funds to sustain the quality and value of a Cornell education.

While the tuition rate reflects the full price of a Cornell education, the university devotes substantial operating funds for financial aid, effectively discounting tuition for many students so that Cornell remains accessible to them. After financial aid is applied, students pay only 65 percent of the total sticker price of tuition, on average, Kotlikoff said.

The university awarded $235 million in grant aid in fiscal year 2015. In 2015-16, 47 percent of undergraduates received need-based financial aid.

The financial aid program’s aim is to strengthen the economic diversity of the student body, Kotlikoff said. “Our goal is to provide access to education for deserving students, regardless of their ability to pay, and enable students to pursue studies and careers that match their skills and interests. The loan default rate for Cornell graduates is extremely low, suggesting that alumni are able to repay their loans,” he said.

The net cost for most students with financial need has been on the decline over the past several years. For example, for students whose family income is less than $129,000, the median cost in inflation-adjusted dollars to attend Cornell is lower than the cost 20 years ago. This decline in cost for families with the greatest financial need is a result of a significant investment to expand financial aid programs.

As a result, undergraduate debt is limited, Kotlikoff said. The percentage of Cornell students graduating with loan debt dropped to 43 percent in 2015, down from 54 percent in 2007. In comparison, the national average of students graduating with loan debt is 69 percent.

In addition to the tuition rate increase, housing and dining contract rates will increase by 2 percent. This is the first housing and dining rate increase in four years.

Undergraduate activity fees, which are set by the Student Assembly, will be $241, a 2.1 percent increase over the current fee of $236.

In the Graduate School, the tuition for doctoral candidates will remain the same for the seventh year in a row, said Barbara A. Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. Tuition rate increases for master’s degree programs vary by program, but none exceed 3.75 percent.

Graduate student activity fees, which are set by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, will be $85, a 4.95 percent increase above the current fee of $81.

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John Carberry