Despite the college’s efforts to cut excess spending, Keene State College students can expect slight increases in their bills this fall.
In-state students will face a 5.9 percent increase in their total cost of attendance, while out-of-state students will see a 2.3 percent increase.
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According to Vice President of Student Affairs Andy Robinson, the increases, which amount to $1,208 and $648 respectively, are a result of the increasing costs of education every year.
“Costs are going up every year,” Robinson said. “Things cost more.”
But the increase is not unusual; 6 percent is the annual goal which the Board of Trustees looks to remain within. Jordan Posner, the University System’s student trustee for KSC, said in order to help reach this goal, no budget asking for more than a two percent increase was granted by Student Assembly.
“That increase is the yearly increase,” Posner said. “It is going up but at the standard rate it has in the past.”
Student Body President Colin Daly said Student Assembly is sensitive to the impact of cost increases on students.
“We always voice our opinion. It’s obviously putting a damper on students,” Daly said. “But we only have so much say in it.”
This year’s increase takes into account four specific factors, according to Vice President of Finance and Planning Jay Kahn. He said last year’s budget deficit, decreased state appropriations, salary increases for the first time in two years, and the need to continue to improve the college all add extra costs on top of increases in the price of normal operation.
Kahn said for this fiscal year, the college used $1.7 million in its reserves to make up the budget deficit.
“We did not have a balanced budget this year,” Kahn said. “We cannot continue to do that.”
Last year’s cut of 55 percent of the University System’s funding from the state of N.H. also significantly played a role in the college’s own budget. Typically, out-of-state students pay the cost of education, and in-state students pay a little bit less because the college receives this funding from N.H. taxpayers.
“State appropriations acts as a subsidy for in-state costs,” Kahn said. “Presumably, the remainder of that difference is made up by the state appropriation.”
But with significantly less funding, less of that difference can be made up through state appropriations, causing an increase in-state tuition.
Adding to that, an increased financial need from the student population and decreased funding leads to gaps in financial aid.
“The biggest unpredictable that has been over the past four years is how the college’s financial aid needs to shift as family incomes shift,” Kahn said. “If the economy begins to improve, this will begin to stabilize.”
Kahn said that currently, the college awards $10.3 million of its budget to students with financial need.
Although tough economic times are taking a toll on the college’s budget, the college continues to maintain its standards instead of cutting the benefits students enjoy.
“We’re facing tight times, but we’re still trying to be creative,” Robinson said. “We really agonize over any increase. At the same time, we’re trying to maintain the quality students are used to.”
The college is continuing to cut costs wherever possible, Robinson said, but in small ways that won’t disrupt students. For example, he said offices were asked to trim their own budgets, copiers and printers across campus are being replaced to be more efficient, athletic teams are being asked to wait an extra year or two if possible to replace uniforms, and computers are being rotated out every four years instead of three. He said each seems trivial, but by making small changes across the board, the college can save a lot of money.
In addition, Kahn said the college carefully compares itself to other schools like KSC in order to make sure that the cost of attendance equals the value of attendance to ensure that students are getting what they’re paying for.
“The college and our trustees are all very cost-sensitive,” Kahn said. “To that end, we do cost comparisons every year. We look at all of our competitor institutions and make sure that our costs do not exceed the median costs of our competitors.”
The college then compares costs with peer institutions “to make sure we are spending our money as efficiently as possible,” Kahn said. “Frankly, no one is spending more for the classroom. Finally, you start to see the value.”
Kahn said that the college continues to work to improve its value as well, through new programs, accreditation, and continuing to be nationally ranked. “So we can demonstrate that the value of a Keene State College education is improving as well,” Kahn said.
Allie Bedell can be contacted at email@example.com.