Several of the nation’s elite private colleges and universities have announced their 2023-24 tuition rates in the past few weeks, and a pattern is emerging for the increases for next year to be 4% or more.
Among highly selective institutions, Stanford University has posted the largest percentage increase in its published tuition for next year when, earlier in February, its Board of Trustees approved a 7% increase in undergraduate tuition for the 2023-24 academic year. With that increase, the total list price for attending Stanford will be $82,406 a year.
Of course, many undergraduates will not pay anywhere near that amount because Stanford will also increase its institutional financial aid and will fully cover tuition and room and board charges for most students coming from families with annual incomes less than $100,000. And students from families that earn under $150,000 annually will receive enough financial support to cover their tuition.
Nonetheless, the size of the increase is significant. According to The Stanford Daily, it represents the largest one-year increase in Stanford’s tuition and room and board since 2013, and is considerably greater than the average annual increase of 3% to 4% over the past decade.
Stanford looks to be an outlier, at least so far.
Last week Duke University reported that its 2023-24 undergraduate tuition would rise by 4.9%. In 2023-24, undergraduate tuition will be $63,450, and room, board and required fees will be $19,813, increasing the total published cost of attendance for undergraduates to $83,263.
According to Duke’s announcement, in the current academic year, 50% of its undergraduate students received some form of institutional financial assistance. The average total financial aid package for first-year students who began in 2022 and qualified for assistance, was $59,578. Approximately 21% of students in the entering class received financial aid grants that covered their full cost of tuition, and students from households with a total income of $60,000 or less were not expected to make any family contribution.
Georgetown University is increasing its undergraduate tuition list price by 4.9% also, bringing it to $64,896. The total cost of attendance, including room and board, will increase 4.8%. Georgetown will also increase its financial aid to minimize the impact of the increase on students from families with modest or low incomes.
Yale University’s term bill, which includes tuition, room, and board, will increase by 3.9% from $80,700 to $83,880. Tuition will be $64,700, and housing and meals for students who live on campus will be $19,180.
“Yale’s need-based financial aid awards always increase in lockstep with any increases in the term bill,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, as part of the announcement.
Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Brown University’s undergraduate tuition will increase 4.75% to $65,656, but it too will be offset by aid for students with demonstrated financial need. Several other Ivy League schools have yet to release their tuition rates for the upcoming year.
Undergraduates attending Washington University in St. Louis can expect a 3.9% jump in their published tuition price for the 2023–2024 academic year. That represents its highest annual tuition hike since the 2011–2012 academic year and will bring its published tuition to $61,750.
Middlebury College’s Board of Trustees has approved a 4.5% tuition increase for undergraduate students, taking its tuition for the 2023–24 academic year to $64,800.
According to data from the College Boards’s Trends In College Pricing report, tuition increases at private, nonprofit four-year colleges and universities averaged 3.5% before adjusting for inflation in the prior, 2022-23 academic year.
Several factors help explain what may turn out to be this year’s larger average increase. Inflation is no doubt the biggest contributor. It rose 5.2% in fiscal year 2022, according to the Commonfund Higher Education Price Index® (HEPI). That was a much steeper increase than the previous fiscal year’s 2.7% rate and the highest since 6.0% in FY 2001.
But other forces are in play as well as colleges try to weather various financial headwinds at the same time they aim to improve student services. Endowment returns, a major source of operating funds for private college, fell sharply at the end of last year. Tuition increases can take up some of that slack. And colleges have also pointed to the need to expand student services in areas such as behavioral health and career counseling as justifications for price hikes.
But inflation remains the favorite and safest culprit to blame. It’s easily understood by consumers who see it chip away at their own family budgets, and it’s affecting almost every business sector so students and families are less likely to single out colleges as unnecessarily raising their prices.