For nearly three years, Cody McKesson, a junior at Concordia, has experienced little change in his education at Concordia College. Yet, each fall, McKesson is frustrated after receiving an email bearing bad news: Concordia is boosting its tuition.
“My experience seems to stay the same,” McKesson said. “So, to me, it doesn’t seem worth it.”
In early November, William Craft, the president of Concordia College, announced via email the college’s decision to increase tuition for the 2020-2021 school year.
With an increase of 3.89%, which amounts to $1,600, Concordia’s tuition for the coming school year has been set at $42,750.
According to Craft, many factors played a role in the tuition raise.
“Tuition goes up because our very fundamental costs go up,” Craft said.
Karl Stumo, the college’s Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing, said that the most essential part of running a college is people. While crucial, it’s the most pricey necessity. In order to attract and keep quality workers, the college must offer competitive wages and enticing benefits. To help do this, investments in salaries are made each year.
“If you make cars, your biggest expense is steel. If you run a college, the biggest expense is faculty and staff,” Stumo said.
Also influencing the need to boost tuition is healthcare. An integral component of the benefits Concordia offers its students and faculty, healthcare has been particularly expensive in recent years. According to Stumo, Concordia’s healthcare benefit claims were higher last year than they had been in previous years. Because of this, more insurance was needed, resulting in higher costs for healthcare.
“Overall, we’re committed to peoples’ health and well-being, and this year that just cost a little more,” Stumo said.
The changing curriculum is not without expenses. Students who attend Concordia have likely heard of Pivotal Experiences in Applied Knowledge (PEAK), as each student is required to have two PEAKs in order to graduate. PEAKs are integrative learning opportunities that can come in the form of an internship, special course, service project or global learning experience. The number of PEAKs done by students has been rapidly increasing, Craft said. While he views these opportunities as important parts of Concordia’s identity and culture, he acknowledges that PEAKs can come with high expenses for the college.
“The college is investing in ways to enhance students’ learning experiences and their readiness for the world,” Craft said.
Recent investments in Concordia’s Center for Student Success, which is a resource that aids students in adjusting to life and courses at Concordia, also contributed to the need for a raise in tuition, Craft said. In addition to the funds put into the Center for Student Success, money has been put toward improving Concordia’s Career Center, as well. At the Career Center, students are given resources and tools that not only aid them in succeeding at Concordia but help equip them for life after graduation, too.
When considering the newly raised cost of an education at Concordia, Craft said, it’s worth noting that Concordia is cheaper than many of the 17 private colleges in Minnesota to begin with. Even when Concordia has to raise its tuition, it never quite catches up to the prices of many of its competitors, such as St. Olaf, Carleton, St. Kate’s, Augsburg, Gustavus Adolphus and Macalester College.
While, to some, Concordia’s prices can seem overwhelming at first glance, students only pay a fraction of the sticker price after scholarships and financial aid. Concordia’s comprehensive fee, which includes tuition, room, board, technology and student activity fees, is advertised as $52,056. However, this is the price before financial aid, scholarships and grants are factored in. Across the college as a whole, the tuition, on average, will be discounted by around 60% for the 2020-2021 school year, Craft said.
“It seems like what I’m paying for is good,” McKesson said. “Concordia has a lot of great things to offer.”