By Angelica Casas
On Jan. 29, the Our Lady of the Lake University Board of Trustees met as they do two or three times a semester. This particular meeting, though, resulted in changes that will affect students’ wallets.
Tuition for the 2015-2016 academic year will increase 6 percent for all students except doctorate students, who will see a 3 percent increase. Room and board will also increase anywhere from $31 to $200 for double and triple rooms, and meal plan prices will increase $25 for all residents. A new library fee will also go into effect. It has not been determined if students will still be required to have health insurance or to purchase the university’s if they do not have any.
The increases and new fee were announced via the university’s Lake Weekly email updates on Monday, Feb. 9.
Yaretzi Campos does not qualify for federal financial aid.
She has organized fundraisers in the past to help alleviate the cost of tuition; she will need to raise even more money to pay for next academic year.
Campos, a junior psychology major and Spanish minor, comes from a single parent household with three other siblings. She does not qualify for federal aid because she is an undocumented student, and it is at the university’s discretion each semester if she is granted state aid.
“It is already hard to pay for school as is,” Campos said. “I live in Pacelli… that’s $200 more I need to come up with.”
A Finance Committee that makes budget recommendations to the Board of Trustees proposed the increases. The Board, based on the university’s budgets and costs from previous years and estimates for the upcoming year, decided to approve the increases.
Dan Yoxall, vice president of Institutional Advancement, said the increase is necessary to support next academic year’s budget of estimated expenditures.
“Costs of educating students and running the university increase so these increases are set to meet those expenditures,” Yoxall said.
Mark Center, director of Residence Life, said the increases to room and board also come from an increase in projected expenditures, especially with the recent increase in room occupation.
“Several years ago the rates were drastically cut in order to boost the occupancy on campus so that more students would have an opportunity to experience the benefits of on-campus living,” Center said. “Not only has that goal been achieved, but rather has exceeded expectations… Despite not having a housing or meal plan rate increase the past 2 years, it was determined that the university would need to raise (room and board) rates to better meet the needs of the university budget.”
In the last three years, tuition has steadily increased by 2 percent each year, compared to other local institutions like University of the Incarnate Word and St. Mary’s University, which have each increased about 4 percent each of the last three years (see graphic on left).
Although next academic year’s increase is triple the percentage amount of past ones, Marsha Eldridge, associate director of Financial Aid, said the university still has the lowest tuition and fees costs of any other private university in the city; For the 2015-2016 academic year, tuition at St. Mary’s University will be $25,480, at the University of the Incarnate Word it will be $25,900 and at Trinity University it will be $35,688.
“We don’t like to raise tuition but we like to provide students with the resources they need to be successful,” Eldridge said. “Students have to understand that there is a cost for running the university and, unfortunately, it is a cost that needs to be covered.”
Revenue at the university comes from tuition, auxiliary services, fundraising efforts and grants. Funds are allocated to six main expenditures. In order of most allocated funds, the expenditures are instruction, student financial aid, institutional support, student services, operations and maintenance, and academic support.
Students may not agree with the allocation of funds. Juan Balderas, a sophomore, said he sees more funds are invested into new students and athletes and not “loyal students.” He also mentioned that he had maintenance problems in his dorm room that have not been resolved since last semester.
“At the beginning of the semester I filled out a transfer application for other universities because the current tuition is just too much for me and my parents,” Balderas said, adding that he stayed at OLLU because his love for the university was restored. Now, he is rethinking transferring.
“Why would anyone think about increasing the prices? We have a lot more students, shouldn’t the prices go down, not up?” Balderas said.
Although the Financial Aid Office did not suggest the increases and was not part of the decision to approve them, the office addressed student concerns at the Financial Aid Forum on Feb. 11.
“There will be some impact to students,” Eldridge said. “We had only a small increase in financial aid – $45 for FAFSA – but that’s all. (Students) will have to take out more loans.”
But students should not depend on loans alone. And if they do, they should think twice about the money they spend from the loan.
“Loans are a good tool to pay for college, but borrow wisely,” Eldridge said. “Only borrow what you need, because you do have to pay it back.”
Yoxall added that the university awards more than $15 million in institutional funded financial aid, which is approximately 35 percent of gross tuition.
“In other words, for every dollar it receives in tuition, OLLU will give 35 cents back to students in aid,” Yoxall said.
A listing of university scholarship awards can be found on the university’s financial aid webpage.
Regardless of the increases, Campos is not going anywhere.
“I believe God has a purpose for me here,” Campos said, remembering how she was somehow able to pay $8000 for her first semester at the university.
“Now as I am getting closer to graduating, it is getting easier. God always provides.”