Costs climb steadily at private colleges

Tuition, room and board and fees for some private colleges in the Capital Region are nearing $50,000
Suxin Cheah, a Skidmore College senior who hails from Singapore, catches up on her studies between classes Thursday.
Suxin Cheah, a Skidmore College senior who hails from Singapore, catches up on her studies between classes Thursday.

Tuition, room and board and fees for some private colleges in the Capital Region are nearing $50,000 for the 2008-09 academic year.

But administrators at the colleges stress that most students do not pay this listed cost, or anything near it, because of financial aid.

At Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, the cost for a full-time freshman staying in a residence hall will increase about 5.5 percent to $49,266 in the coming academic year.

Skidmore officials said Thursday that the 2008-09 costs have not yet been approved by the college’s board of trustees and could be subject to change.

At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, tuition alone is increasing 5.9 percent, bringing the total tuition, room and board and fees at that college to $48,720.

At Union College in Schenectady, the increase in total college costs for an incoming freshman is going up five percent to $48,552 in 2008-09.

“Very few people are paying the full cost,” said Phil Wajda, a Union spokesman.

Wajda said sometimes students and parents get “sticker shock” when they see the total of tuition, room and board and college fees listed in the catalog.

“Our average package of financial aid is $24,000,” Wajda said about Union.

Mary Lou Bates, Skidmore College’s dean of admissions and financial aid, said Skidmore has regularly increased its financial aid to students in recent years.

She said the college is increasing the amount of financial aid in its operating budget from $25 million this year to $27 million in the 2008-09 academic year.

The cost of attending Skidmore College has not discouraged applicants. Bates said that 7,420 high school seniors applied to the college, a 26 percent increase from the 5,900 applications of five years ago.

Skidmore, a private liberal arts college of 2,400 students, will accept only 28 percent of its applicants for the coming school year. Bates said the incoming class will be a little more than 600 students.

At Union College, about $31 million of the college’s $130 million budget for 2008-09 is devoted to financial aid, up from $28 million in this year’s budget, according to college officials.

At RPI, the university will add more than $10 million in new financial aid resources for undergraduate students during the coming year, according to a RPI statement.

Some of the new money will come from the university’s operating budget, and some will come from the university endowment and philanthropic sources.

“As a top-tier technological research university preparing the global leaders of tomorrow, it is important that we take aggressive actions to ensure that we make the university’s resources available to students of all backgrounds,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson in a statement.

The college will add $6 million of the $10 million to its general financial aid pool for 2008-09, bringing the total of RPI’s resources devoted to financial aid to about $80 million, according to the RPI statement.

The College of Saint Rose in Albany prides itself on its use of financial aid and its modest tuition and fee costs.

Total costs, including tuition, room and board and fees, are going up about six percent to $30,248 in 2008-09 at the College of Saint Rose.

Mary Grondahl, Saint Rose’s vice president for enrollment management, said that on average, 38 percent of the total cost of attending the college is covered by college-driven financial aid such as grants and scholarships.

“Ninety-five percent of our students receive financial aid,” Grondahl said.

At Siena College in Loudonville, the total cost for a student in 2008-09 is increasing approximately 6.7 percent to $33,675, according to college spokeswoman Janet Gianopoulos.

She, like other officials from colleges in the region, noted that Siena’s costs continue to escalate. The cost of electricity at Siena, for example, has increased 17 percent over the past year or so.

Gianopoulos said the college has taken creative and active measures to reduce its electricity and other energy costs, but such major increases are difficult to absorb.

“Our expenses are constantly increasing,” said Union’s Wajda. The college’s operating budget itself is increasing $6 million from this academic year to the 2008-09 academic year.

Bates, of Skidmore, said everything from natural gas to health care has increased over the past year. She added that the college has also increased the salaries of faculty members in recent years.

At the University at Albany, total costs for the 2008-09 school year are expected to remain the same as the current academic year, college officials said this week.

A full-time student who is a resident of New York state and stays on campus will see a total cost of $18,650, including tuition, room and board, as well as books and travel costs, according to the Web site.

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