In light of the recent story in The Point regarding tuition increases at PLNU, I was invited by the paper to provide some additional information that may be helpful in explaining why tuition goes up each year.
Let me start by saying that the Administrative Cabinet and the board of trustees struggle each year in arriving at tuition rates that are as affordable as possible while not sacrificing the quality of experience and outcomes you expect from PLNU.
Ultimately it is the seemingly unrelenting increases in the costs of running the university that result in tuition having to be raised each year. Here are some examples:
- Sixty percent of PLNU’s total university expenses are related to compensation. Universities are very labor-intensive organizations, with a large number of skilled faculty and professional staff that we must pay competitively in order to attract and retain them.
This is even more challenging in a very expensive housing market like San Diego. However, our graduates consistently point to interactions with our quality faculty and staff as experiences that added significant value to their time as a student at PLNU.
- Institutional scholarships and grants awarded annually to students have increased $8.5 million (47%) over the past 4 years. These are tuition dollars that are funneled back to students in order to reduce the actual price they pay for a PLNU education.
- The state of California passed legislation to increase the employee minimum wage by 50% over several years. While these increases may be beneficial to students and other employees who receive them, those increased employer costs must be paid for in some way, most often through increased prices charged for goods and services.
At PLNU, that means tuition. We currently spend about $2.5 million annually in wages for our student employees. The scheduled increases in the minimum wage mean our costs in this one area alone will increase by more than $1 million a year.
- A nearly 90-acre campus with approximately 1,000,000 square feet of building space is expensive to maintain. We spend more than $2 million annually for utilities (electricity, natural gas, water and sewer) on the main campus.
We spend more than $3 million annually in our ongoing renovation of residence halls. The current renovation of Rohr Science is a multi-million dollar project that will result in a significantly improved experience for students and the faculty who teach them.
- We spend several million dollars each year on technology, from administrative systems to classroom equipment to campus Wi-Fi, and increasingly on data security to help ensure faculty, student, and staff data isn’t compromised.
At the same time, we continue to take steps to mitigate our cost increases as much as possible. Several years ago the university went through a 2-year prioritization process where every department at the university was reviewed. The result was realized savings of more than $3 million per year.
These prioritization and cost-saving efforts are expected to become a regular part of university operations in our continuing efforts to balance affordability with a highly impactful student experience.
By: George Latter, Senior Vice President for Finance at PLNU