AU's Price Tag, up Ten Percent since 2016, Keeps Rising

The last institutional budget headed by former American University president Cornelius Kerwin takes effect starting October 1, 2018. Here's a run down of AU's finances from reports published by the university and financial ratings agencies.

Prices keep rising

For a substantial number of students, especially their wallets, the most noticeable piece of Kerwin’s legacy will be an 8.2 percent total increase (two consecutive 4.0 percent increases in fiscal year ‘18 and fiscal year ‘19) in tuition for all enrollment categories —save for Washington College of Law students, who have had two 3.5 percent increases— from $22,023 in 2016-2017 to $22,904 in the academic year 2017-2018 to a tab of $23,820 per student, per semester, in the current academic year. See the tuition tables on the AU website for a breakdown. (For academic years before 2016, check in the university’s financial aid archives. Alternatively, a quick Google search should suffice.)

Following the previous and current academic years, the total cost for full-time undergraduate students to attend AU will have increased by two increments of 3.3 percent per financial year. (In my calculations, I took the median costs of all compulsory expenses—standard tuition, 175-block meal plan, double occupancy in Nebraska/Cassel Halls, no health insurance; you may have a different price tag depending on which meal/housing plan you elect to have.) In the academic year ‘16-’17, it costed around $29,600 for a full-time undergrad to attend AU. In the academic year ‘17-’18, that figure went up to $31,484. In the academic year ‘18-’19 (the current one), the tab sits at $32,618.

The budget, which was voted on and passed by the Board of Trustees in 2016, provides for two 4.0 percent increases in tuition and a 3.3 percent increase in overall cost. In addition to small incremental increases in fees and housing/meal plan prices, these changes amounts to a total increase of approximately 10 percent in the total cost of attending AU as an undergrad, over the course of just two years.

The budget report’s section on financial aid lists one major change with regards to the tuition discount formula, an equation used to calculate the amount of financial aid relative to tuition. In layman’s terms, the tuition discount is a percentage measuring how much tuition money goes back to the students in the form of financial aid. AU claims that its total financial aid funding “is planned to be at 31.7 percent of tuition revenue” in the fiscal years ‘16 and ‘17. However, in an evaluation of AU’s financial condition conducted by ratings agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P), the tuition discount for undergraduates and graduate students was calculated to be “low at almost 24.9 percent” — a number that is lower than AU’s self-reported rate from 1995 (page 22 from the budget). I intend to elaborate on this discrepancy in an upcoming article.

Endowment woes