Just Jay Blog

Why Tuition Increases?

College is expensive. Whether you’re at Bethel for 1 year or 5, it’s an investment—and it’s one I feel is important. We feel blessed to be a part of the educational journey for our students, knowing that each represents a future world-changer, reconciler, and an adventurous Christ-follower who is passionate about becoming who God is calling him or her to be. But we know, for most families, it’s a significant financial sacrifice to attend Bethel.

This next year, the College of Arts & Sciences comprehensive cost (tuition, fees, room, and board) will increase by approximately 4% and our other schools at Bethel will have similar increases. We know that any increase, no matter the amount, puts additional burden on our students and their families. When we look at the context of other private schools in our region:

  • Bethel’s tuition ranks 12 out of the 17 schools in the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC).
  • Average tuition increase for MPCC is 5%.
  • Bethel’s average tuition increase over the past 5 years is 4.7%.
  • In the 2012-2013 academic year, Bethel will give out over $30 million in financial aid.

So, we’ve tried to keep our tuition increases down. But we know our community members wonder why tuition increases have to happen at all? There are a multitude of reasons, and Kathleen Nelson, senior vice president for finance and administration, will address many of them in greater detail next week in a post on the budgeting process, but I want to highlight 3 significant reasons.

  • Growth. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but there are times when adding new resources enriches educational opportunities for students. An example of this is adding facilities and new faculty as programs expand. This year we are expanding several undergraduate academic programs. Quality improvements and growth of programs require additional resources.
  • Personnel. In addition to having over 6,500 students, Bethel employs over 900 staff and faculty. These women and men are crucial to providing a world-class education. Due to the economic downturn, we froze all salaries for our employees in both 2009 and 2010. This last year, we felt we couldn’t ask our employees to sacrifice another year without a salary increase, so we budgeted for a standard increase of 2%—at a cost of around $1.1 million. Quality employees provide quality experiences for our students. This means we need to work towards providing competitive salaries and benefits for our employees. This, of course, comes at a financial expense—but we feel it is important.
  • Keeping the lights on. It’s no small expense to heat and cool our buildings —but who wants to sit in a hot or cold classroom or office? Operational expenses, including money to provide much needed maintenance on our buildings, add up. While most of our construction projects are funded through generous gifts from Bethel donors, once the building is built, we have to take care of it.

Ultimately, there are many factors that affect how we manage the Bethel budget, which leads to tough conversations and challenging decisions. We are committed to doing everything we can to control education costs and work with each family and their unique situation to make Bethel affordable. We believe in the transformational education Bethel provides. We will continue to find ways to make this kind of education possible.