Tuition to increase 2.9 percent

A 2.9 percent tuition increase has been approved for Fall 2019.
Full-time undergraduate tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year is $16,765 per semester, up $472 from $16,293 in 2018. Conservatory tuition for next year is $18,163, up $512 from $17,651
The board of trustees voted for the increase in October, according to Bill Reniff, vice president of finance and administration. Though BW is a tuition-dependent university and raises its tuition every year, Reniff said that the board tries to keep the increase “as minimal as possible.”
For the past few years, the raise has been less than three percent.
“[Tuition increases are] something that the board administration really tries to hold down,” Reniff said.
In order to determine how much of a tuition hike is necessary, the school uses predictive modeling to estimate the income and expenses of the next academic year, said Reniff. The goal is to find a reasonable increase that allows the school to “maintain a positive bottom line” so they do not end the academic year with a deficit.
“It’s not a huge return on the investment or margin, but we like to be in the positive, and then that positive margin can be invested in new facilities [and] capital, and that keeps the university going,” he said.
Reniff said that nearly two-thirds of BW’s expenses are employee salaries. Factored into the model are cost-of-living adjustments and merit raises that are meant to encourage good faculty and staff members to stay at BW.
“We try to maintain and attract the top faculty, and we try to attract and maintain the top staff,” Reniff said. “And to do that, you have to give them cost-of-living adjustments…and then there are merit raises based on performance to try to keep your best people.”
In addition to raises for current faculty, investment in new academic programs — which often involves hiring and training new personnel — also contributes to the increase.
President Robert Helmer said that these tuition increases allow the university to invest in itself in order to provide a quality education for its students.
“BW continuously strives to keep costs down and tuition increases as low as possible, while maintaining our commitment to provide the best possible experience and outcomes for our students,” Helmer said.
One way the university is trying to keep tuition prices low is by seeking other sources of revenue. The University Market project on Front Street was implemented in part as a means of providing a source of non-enrollment-based revenue for the University, said Reniff.
The Buzz on Front bookstore and the BW-owned Starbucks franchise so far have exceeded expectations in generating revenue, Reniff said.
“Starbucks is a money-making function, and our bookstore down here is money-making,” he said. “And it’s nice in the sense that it just doesn’t bring revenue in from our students, it brings in street revenue.”
Though tuition increase is a regular part of the academic year, Reniff said that the school does “take it very seriously.” He said it’s important to the board of trustees that students continue to “see a value” for what they pay for their education at BW.
“It’s a good education for a good cost, and we want to maintain that,” he said.
Reniff said he will send a letter to students in March detailing the tuition increase.