by Brian Garvey ’20
Last week, the Providence College Board of Trustees approved a 3.6 percent tuition increase and a 3.2 percent increase in room and board for next year. Tuition has been on a steady rise for the past few years as PC has tried to maintain a competitive price in regards to other schools in the same relative region and price level, while also managing the costs of campus improvements.
In an email sent out to the general student body, Father Brian Shanley, O.P., stated, “We have seen a steady increase in the number of students who apply for admission in the Early Action or Early Decision pools, which is helping us secure commitments earlier in the admission process. In an effort to facilitate timely financial aid packaging for ‘early’ admits, a multi-year tuition and room and board cost plan is being developed. In addition, the Finance Committee continues to work with consultants from the Art & Science firm to maintain a market-appropriate price point for Providence College in relation to our peers.” The rise in tuition is not limited to PC, as tuition has been on the rise across the country for decades.
A large part of the rise in tuition is due to the discount rate. The discount rate is the percentage of tuition paid that goes back into student aid. For example, PC’s discount rate is approximately 37 percent, which means that for every dollar a student spends on tuition, 37 cents are given back into financial aid.
This 37 percent is an average, as not every student has the same discount rate. In comparison to similar schools, PC is consistently ranked seventh out of the 10 schools in their peer group in regards to tuition price, while also having the third highest discount rate. This includes schools such as Villanova University, Boston College, and Holy Cross.
John Sweeney, a senior vice president and the CFO of Providence College, said, “We try to price along to our peers, so when students are considering a college, they’re looking at our prices and determining that our price is not too high or too low. Part of our big strategy is staying within the middle of the pack.” While PC has a lower tuition than the majority of its peer group, it still is about $13,000 higher than the average tuition of a 4-year private college ($32,410 via CollegeBoard), and has a 7 percent lower discount rate than the national average (44 percent via CFO).
Another important component of the rise in tuition is the investment in the campus itself. The additions of new faculty, new technology, and new buildings have been a factor in the rise in tuition, as PC has been a flurry of construction over the past few years. However, the rise in tuition is mainly a result of financial aid. Sweeney stated, “Most of our financial aid is need based. We are spending overall about $70 million on financial aid, and our overall revenue at the college is about $210 million.”
PC has been strident in its attempt to stay in the middle of their peer group, as the school feels that too low of a tuition will result in the school being unable to deliver the quality expected of the institution, and that too high of a tuition will drive away prospective students.
Sweeney also said, “We are also really trying to increase our fundraising and building the endowment to increase the amount that is available in financial aid. Father Shanley wants to raise more money so that financial aid doesn’t have to come from tuition, but rather from generosity.”
The increase in room and board is the result of prospective planning for more upgrades and additions on campus. While the rise in room and board is linked to a consistent rise throughout the country, it is also to make needed improvements on campus. Housing on campus has been a hotly debated topic at the College over the past few years, and this increase is meant to address some concerns. Sweeney stated, “One of the big plans is the renovation of Aquinas Hall. That is definitely a huge one. Another one is starting to plan for the renovation of Raymond Dining Hall, as there is constant pressure on trying to improve the quality of the dining program. We have great leadership with Sodexo, and we are trying to figure out how to offer more options, like Eaton Street Café, while also managing costs.”
Ultimately, the rise in tuition and room and board will be put in place for next year. Students can hope and expect to see their money put to good use, as PC tries to make every effort to continue to build the institution up to greater heights.