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Tuition and fees to increase for next scholastic year

This week ASMC hosted an open forum to discuss the increase in tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate and graduate students expected for the 2013/14 scholastic year.

About 50 students, mostly members of ASMC gathered to hear the administration’s break-down of the new costs for students and ask questions.

Undergraduate full time
tuition +3.5%

Undergraduate part time
tuition per class +3.5%

Graduate full time tuition +3.5%

Graduate part time tuition per class-varied

Housing +2%

Campus fee +4.3%

Meal plan +2.7%

AC transit fee +12%

Health insurance +20%

Brian O’Rourke, Vice President for Enrollment Management, took the helm of the forum and fielded most of the questions from students. Also in attendance from the administration were President DeCourdreaux, Shari Keller, Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid, and Linda Zitzner, Assistant VP for Facilities, Auxiliaries & Campus Planning.

O’Rourke first wanted to communicate that he and the administration considered the 3.5% tuition increase and the increases in fees across the board to be necessary.

The sharpest fee increase will be for health insurance, 20%, which, along with the transit fee (up 12%), and the meal plan (up 2.7%) according to O’Rourke, are rates set by the outside contractors who provide those services, and Mills does not control them.

“The desire of the administration is to pass as little of the increase on to the students,” O’Rourke said. To emphasize this sentiment, O’Rourke explained that the bulk of the schools operating costs is defrayed between tuition, fees, and the Mills endowment.

“We are pulling way too many funds from the endowment already,” O’Rourke said. So much, O’Rourke said, that Mills was denied a federal grant this year specifically due to the amount of funds the college was taking from the endowment.

Beyond the real cost of attending Mills, a number of external changes on a federal and state level has caused the administration to rethink how the $22 million currently set in the budget for financial aid will be distributed to students. Much of this is preparing for a change in aid that cannot be tacked down fully yet.

The Cal Grant, which about a third of Mills students receive, according to O’Rourke, is experiencing a reduction, and the recent government sequester has earmarked financial aid as one of the many federal services to be cut. Among the aid O’Rourke said likely be cut was the federal funds for work study.

“That puts us in the position as a college that we either have to eliminate student employment positions, or fund those employment positions through Mills,” O’Rourke said.

Keller confirmed that no housing discounts will be offered next year, and that free laundry is not going anywhere.

For those students who received a discount this year, the real cost of housing will feel as if it has risen more than the 2 percent expected for all residential students.

O’Rourke said that students who reapply for aid through FAFSA may be eligible for extra aid in consideration of the rise in cost of attending Mills. He encouraged students to reach out to the financial aid office if they are not satisfied with the amount of aid they receive.

One student asked if  the increase in tuition caused a dip in enrollment,  would tuition increase even further the year after that.

O’Rourke said that there is no direct correlation between change in enrollment and tuition and fees in the future.

“Retention is very important to us,” Keller said. “If you have concerns after you receive your financial aid award, after you receive your bill, that’s the time to come talk to Financial Aid and/or to Student Accounts to see if there is any additional assistance that we can provide”