Tuition increase held to 55-year low, financial aid stays robust

Nearly one year ago, President Martha E. Pollack reaffirmed Cornell’s commitment to meeting students’ financial aid needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

That commitment remains robust in the budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1. The university continues to control the cost of education for students, making large investments in financial aid while keeping the increase in tuition at a historic low.

“This has been an extraordinary year for our students, faculty and staff,” Provost Michael Kotlikoff said, “and the university has met challenges associated with creating an environment in which the health of our community is protected. While we have had significant expenses associated with meeting these challenges, we have also directed federal assistance towards our students, and increased our commitment to financial support for them.”

In the 2022 fiscal year, the university will continue to meet full financial need for all undergraduate students – regardless of the economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic, said Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment. “We knew that this was potentially a crisis with a two- or three-year tail,” he said. “So we’re ready in the coming year to continue to meet need. And if more need is identified, we are committed to matching it.”

The university awarded $271 million in Cornell grant aid in fiscal year 2020, and $309 million in financial aid overall, including federal support. More than half of all undergraduates – 57% – received need-based financial aid, which in many cases not only reduces tuition but also offsets living expenses.

At its January meeting, the Board of Trustees approved planning parameters for the university’s 2021-22 budget – including the lowest tuition percentage increase in 55 years for the endowed colleges: the College of Architecture, Art and Planning; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; and the College of Engineering.

The tuition increase for the 2021-22 academic year is 2.9% for both endowed and contract colleges, which is offset for most students by the financial aid increase, Burdick noted. “We have expanded financial aid enough that most students who receive aid should not see a rise in costs despite the modest tuition increase,” he said.

Tuition for out-of-state undergraduates without financial aid in both endowed and contract colleges will be $60,286, an increase of $1,700 from last year. For undergraduates from New York state enrolled in the contract colleges – the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Human Ecology and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations – tuition before financial aid is applied will be $40,382, an increase of $1,138.

Tuition for master’s degrees will increase between zero and 5.1%, depending on the degree, with most increasing by 2.9%. The cost of tuition for law, veterinary and MBA degrees also varies but tops out at a 2.9% increase. Doctoral degrees will remain the same.

The university is strongly committed to supporting students’ access to a Cornell education regardless of their family’s incomes, Kotlikoff noted. The actual cost of attendance for students with financial aid depends on a number of factors, but in general undergraduate students whose families earn less than $60,000 will have no required parent contribution and no loans. The maximum annual loan level is capped at $2,500 for families with incomes between $60,000 and $85,000; $5,000 for incomes between $85,000 and $135,000; and $7,500 for all other students.

“In these unprecedented times, we continue to work to make Cornell affordable to a greater number of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Kotlikoff said.

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Abby Butler