by Ruth Stevens · Posted January 26, 2008; 12:26 p.m.Princeton University trustees Jan. 26 approved the lowest percentage increase in student fees since 2001-02 -- 3.9 percent -- while also approving an almost 7 percent increase in the undergraduate scholarship budget to ensure that the increase in fees will not affect any student on financial aid. For students not on financial aid, the trustees sought to keep the rate of increase consistent with the expected rate of increase in the incomes of these students' families.
"While the University's exceptional financial aid program is the most important vehicle for ensuring that a Princeton education is affordable to all the University's students, we also recognize that the cost of a Princeton education puts substantial burdens on families that do not qualify for aid, especially those only slightly above the aid threshold," said Provost Christopher Eisgruber. "After reviewing projections for national labor markets, we concluded that this increase was likely to be less than or equal to the average rate of increase in the incomes of tuition-paying families at Princeton."
The projected budget increase in the financial aid program from just over $81 million this year to $86.7 million next year will continue significant enhancements the University has made over the past 10 years, including replacing all required loans with grants that do not need to be repaid. This year the average grant for a freshman on financial aid is more than $31,000. These efforts have dramatically increased the economic diversity of Princeton's student body. Of this year's freshman class, 54 percent, or 671 students, are on financial aid. That percentage is a striking change from the class of 2001 -- the last class admitted before the enhancements to the aid program -- when 38 percent of the freshmen were on aid.
Princeton's undergraduate charges next year will include: $34,290 for tuition, a 3.9 percent increase from $33,000 in 2007-08; $6,205 for room, up 3.8 percent from $5,980; and $5,200 for board, an increase of 4 percent from $5,000. Princeton's total fee package consistently has positioned it lowest among peer institutions.
Last year, Princeton did not increase tuition, and had an overall fee package increase of 4.2 percent to bring charges for room and board more in line with their costs. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year private college in 2007-08 rose 6.3 percent from the previous year.
The fee package was part of a 2008-09 operating budget of $1.2 billion adopted by the board at its Jan. 26 meeting. The trustees acted on a proposal from President Shirley M. Tilghman that was based on the recommendations of the Priorities Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community. Composed of faculty, students and staff, the committee has served for almost four decades as the mechanism for recommending fiscal and programmatic priorities.
The committee recommended the allocation of approximately $1.6 million to fund its highest priority new funding requests in an overall balanced budget.
"For the second consecutive year, the Priorities Committee benefited from favorable budget circumstances," said Eisgruber, who chairs the committee. "Most notable among these were the superb performance of the University endowment and the record-setting annual giving numbers made possible by the sustained generosity of Princeton's alumni."
Against this background, the committee recommended additions to the operating budget that focused on four areas of the University's operations: health and well-being; campus safety; attracting and retaining the best students, faculty and staff; and information management. The funding will be allocated for:
Health and well-being
• additional staff in University Health Services to provide more medical assistants and add staff devoted to the medical demands of travel and immunizations and with expertise in substance abuse counseling.
• providing support for sports clubs (the student-run athletic clubs that compete against other colleges and universities) and intramural events.
• improving conditions in the laundry rooms of undergraduate dormitories.
• a new program manager for safety and security in the facilities department to increase the effectiveness with which the University manages its safety and security systems.
• an additional health and safety program manager in the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, who will address increased demands created by the growth in the University's physical plant, by the increasing complexity of research and by changes in the regulatory environment.
• a new assistant director of the Frist Campus Center who will manage the center during evenings and weekends.
Attracting and retaining the best students, faculty and staff
• establishing a fund for faculty members in the humanities and social sciences, guaranteeing each a minimum level of unrestricted research support for conferences, books, supplies, travel and research assistance.
• increasing fellowship stipends for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences by 4.16 percent, or 1.16 percent above the 3 percent already incorporated into the University's 2008-09 operating budget, bringing 12-month fellowship stipends next year to $25,000.
• a new data analyst in the Graduate School to improve communication and streamline the processing of information relating to graduate students and their status, such as progress toward degree.
• an additional employee relations specialist in the Office of Human Resources to address issues of workplace climate and improve the University's ability to recruit and retain staff.
• increasing faculty and staff salary pools over last year.
• additional staff in the Office of Information Technology to assist departments in developing websites using the Roxen content management system purchased by the University in 2004-05.
• additional staff to assist departments in using OnBase, a software package that transforms paper documents into retrievable electronic images.
• a new records manager in the University library who will implement the University's new records management guidelines and help departments across the campus assess their needs.