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Tuition rises 8 percent

Tuition at Concordia College will increase $2,200 to $29,150 next year.

Provost Mark Krejci said the 8 percent increase is due to a smaller freshman class and an ongoing recovery from the economic recession.

The 2009 economic recession hit Concordia’s endowment fund and curbed potential donors. Fewer donors gave money to the college compared to previous years.

In addition, students struggled to cover the cost of their education. The college gave more financial aid to students to help them through the recession. But this left a mark on the budget.

“We overspent money in award packages in the last four years,” said Linda Brown, vice president of finance and treasurer. “It may be two or three years until we’re back where we were three years ago.”

Brown said that Concordia is not in the red because there is a contingency for circumstances like the recession. Some other institutions have had to make serious cuts to make up for the recession’s impact on their budgets. Brown said Cornell University had to cut $220 million in a short time.

“They had to do it now,” she said. “Have we had to do something like that? Absolutely not. We’re being proactive.”

The contingency alone is not enough to deal with the recent shortcomings in the budget.
“This particular year we have used all of it,” Brown said. “That’s an impact you’d feel as students.”

Concordia tracks the tuition rates of public and private universities that compete for the same students. The tuition rate at Concordia is lower than most private colleges in Minnesota. Jim Hausmann, interim vice president for enrollment, said the college tries to remain competitive among colleges that offer comparable programs.

“We’re able to offer that quality of education at a lower cost,” Krecji said.

The tuition differences vary among universities. The difference between Concordia and Macalester, for example, was $12,886 this year. But tuition at Concordia University-St. Paul was only $240 more.

In addition to a tuition increase, the administration had to make decisions about how to make cuts withinprograms to fund others. The entire college went through a prioritization process review process earlier this fall. Every department had to make a proposal for what they would do if they were forced to cut a portion of their budget. They also had to make a determination about how they would expand if they were given more funding.

The process resulted in a long-term plan for the college.

The tuition increase will also help fund new initiatives, pay raises and athletic teams.

Paying for Concordia’s tuition will be difficult for many students. The Minnesota State Grant hangs in the balance while the state legislature determines whether it will continue to fund the program in light of the state budget deficit.

Hausmann said loans are readily available, but interest rates are prohibitively expensive. He said 25 percent of private loans are in default.

“We are concerned about rising indebtedness,” Hausmann said.

In order to provide additional support to students, some loaning institutions now loan to students when their parents are not credit-worthy.

Hausmann is confident that students should be able to afford to attend Concordia.
Paying for a Concordia education may be difficult, but not impossible. While some public institutions offer a cheaper education, many students spend more than four years in school. Many don’t graduate. Hausmann cites Concordia graduates’ ability to find jobs after school as a factor in Concordia’s affordability.

“There’s still a stretch for many, many students to go here,” Hausmann said.
Even with scholarships, grants and loans, the sticker price may be foreboding. Next year’s seniors will see their tuition rise from $24,120 to $29,150 in the course of four years.

Junior Blake MacKenzie worries about how he will pay for his last year at Concordia. He comes from a single parent household with no income to support his education. He depends heavily on state and federal grants, as well as federal loans.

MacKenzie receives the Minnesota State Grant as well as the Federal Pell Grant. The economic crisis has put his state grant in jeopardy.

“It’s bad timing for Concordia to raise tuition when the government is cutting grants,” MacKenzie said. “For people in my situation, it’s going to hit us like a double edged sword.”

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