By Katherine Burgess
For the 2013-2014 school year, Union University will have the smallest tuition increase during University President David Dockery’s time at Union, with the exception of the 2008 post-tornado year.
The tuition increase is about 4.5 percent, with no increase for room and board. The increase comes to about $610 per semester. Winter housing for January term will be free, as it was last year.
In past years, except for 2008, tuition has always increased by 5 percent or more.
“When the primary revenue source for the university is student tuition, we have to have some increase just to cover the fixed costs like maintenance needs, utilities, property insurance, technology replacement or upgrades and other similar matters,” Dockery said.
Costs for technology, insurance, health care and other university needs inflate annually, resulting in the need for tuition increases.
However, this year, administration decided to keep the tuition increase low and room and board costs unchanged.
Dockery said the smaller increase was made possible partly due to the administration choosing to refrain from taking in additional revenue for program enhancement.
This year the university also is not handling as many new, large initiatives such as the expansion of the pharmacy program and a move to a new Hendersonville campus.
“We felt it was important this year to show sensitivity to both the real and perceived economic challenges with which most people continue to struggle,” Dockery said. “We hope that the smaller tuition increase indicates the university’s recognition that the national and regional economy remains unstable.
Moreover, many people, particularly in this region, continue to face challenges, especially with higher unemployment in this region than in most parts of the country.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tennessee had a 7.8 percent unemployment rate in February, a rate higher than that of 31 other states.
“I appreciate that [the tuition increase] is a lot lower, since I am having to take out loans and figure out the next two years of school,” said Charlotte Pratt, sophomore nursing major. “So I’m glad I don’t have to get more in debt before I graduate.”
However, Pratt also said she does not like having any tuition increase at all.
“[The increase] does distress me, but at the same time I do understand why they have to do that,” Pratt said. “I don’t completely understand how all the mechanisms of Union University work, but I imagine it would be kind of insane to run, and so I understand that they have to raise it. But, I admit that I wish they didn’t.”
Dockery said that due to the difficult economy, he believes that many institutions of private higher education will join Union in limiting their tuition percentage increase more so than in past years.
According to a U.S. News & World Report article, “Colleges cut, freeze tuition for fall 2013,” other colleges are doing as Dockery believes, with some taking more extreme measures to seek affordability.
The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities conducted a survey that found tuition rates at private colleges and universities rose an average of 3.9 percent for the 2012-2013 academic year — the lowest rate in four decades.
In an Oct. 4, 2012, news release from the organization, David Warren, president of the association, said this: “Since the economic downturn, private colleges and universities across the nation have redoubled efforts to cut their operating costs, improve their efficiency and enhance their affordability.”
While no such survey data is yet available for the 2013-2014 academic year, the U.S. News article suggests that the trend continues.