Monday, January 22, 2007

Princeton's Tuition Plan

By Bryan O'Keefe

The big news in higher ed over the weekend was the decision by Princeton to freeze tuition for the upcoming academic year. Much like the recent proposals from the Democrats in Congress, this decision can be both cheered and jeered at the same time.

Freezing tuition at universities with robust endowments has been a hobby horse of this blog for some time now, so it’s only fair that we give credit where credit is due. There is no reason for Princeton to keep raising tuition -- in fact, there is a case to be made that Princeton should eliminate tuition entirely. Of course, the chances that will ever happen are slim. In any event, at least freezing tuition for the next year is a small step in the right direction and we can only hope that other elite universities with billion dollar endowments follow the Tiger’s lead.

That being said, the devil is often times in the details and this is no exception. As INSIDE HIGHER ED reports, any financial savings that would be passed onto students is being wiped out by a large increase in room and board costs. The University denies that these new room and board fees are linked to the tuition plan, but one can only wonder if they are being 100 percent honest here. They claim that the university heavily subsidizes student housing (which may or may not be true) – but why cut that subsidy in the same year that you are freezing tuition? Purely a coincidence?

There will be more to write about on this topic in the days and weeks ahead. For now though, realize that while the tuition freeze might generate a lot of positive public relations for Princeton, the actual cost of attending Princeton and living on campus will not be going down for most students.

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