Columbia announces 5% tuition hike for 2023-2024 academic year

By Olivia Cohen, Managing Editor

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Effective next academic year, Columbia students will see a 5% increase in their tuition. 

This increase will total $1,464, bumping-up the cost of full-time tuition to $30,734 before financial aid for undergraduate students.

In an email sent to students on Thursday evening, the college said the Board of Trustees approved the increase on Nov. 1. The increases will also include changes to the college’s standardized “flat fee” and to student housing.

Columbia’s required fees will increase by 2% – adding $29 to the fee – totaling $1,479. Charges for Study Abroad, Semester in LA and the U-Pass are not included in the new figure.

Graduate students will see an increase in their tuition rate per credit, with the overall cost varying by program, which will on average equal a 5% increase, according to a Friday email from Kim.

The cost of on-campus housing will increase by 3% to reflect rent increases from the owners of residence halls that lease space to the college.

“Our Board [of Trustees] is very aware that when we raise tuition in some ways, the most pressure falls on continuing students, because new students come in at whatever the tuition rate is,” said President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim. “So there’s been a big push from our board to raise new money” to provide scholarships to help continuing students.

This new increase comes nearly one year after Columbia’s administration announced a 10% tuition increase for the current academic year, as reported by the Chronicle on Nov. 16, 2021.

“I think that the tuition increase is really going to impact students. The 10% last year, that really hurt and that affected a large portion of our students — all of us,” said Tyler Harding, Student Government Association president. “And I think 5%, although it’s not 10, is also a lot.”

Harding described Columbia’s large tuition increases in recent years as “sporadic,” compared to other institutions whose increases are traditionally lower than Columbia’s.

Last year, DePaul University  announced a 2-3% increase in tuition for the 2022-23 academic year, according to the DePaulia. Tuition for the class entering in 2022 in most programs was $42,189, according to the DePaul website.

“And I think that as an institution, we need to look at trying to be more predictable in our tuition increase,” Harding said. “And I think that that would really help students because we shouldn’t have to worry if next year’s tuition is going to be a 10% increase. And because, I mean, the reality is a lot of students that go to Columbia pay for their own tuition. And so students who are saving up money by working a job, they need to know how much to save up to spend on tuition.”

Kate Apostolacus, a senior entertainment marketing major, is the mental health senator for SGA and an Engage Leader on Columbia’s Engage app. Apostolacus described the increase as a “slap in the face.”

“Honestly, every institution in America has a tuition increase. If it’s going to be normal, like two, three, four percent, you know, everyone’s still gonna be mad about it, but like, I don’t think it’ll be bad,” Apostolacus said. “If it’s more than 5%, it’s gonna be a slap in the face. Here we are [with] 5%.”

Harding said the SGA has been working with other departments at Columbia to help share ways students can find help to pay for college and ease some of the students’ confusion. 

“We’ve reached out to different departments at Columbia [to put] together resources to distribute to students about finding scholarships and different financial ways to pay for college,” Harding said. “The first thought that enters people’s head is how am I going to pay for college, and SGA wants to make sure that students are aware of the resources that Columbia has and is offered. So that is our goal that we are working on this week, and next week, is getting that information out to students about what is available.”

The email announcement from the administration said the Columbia Central team will work with students and families to make awards based on financial need and individual circumstances, “as always.”

In tandem with the increase, the Board of Trustees has approved Kim’s new Strategic Plan, “Building Our Brighter Future,” which includes a section on “long-term financial viability.” 

In collaboration with the Board of Trustees, we will continue to implement a long-term undergraduate and graduate tuition pricing strategy that increases tuition to a level which reflects the value of a Columbia education, facilitates the more strategic use of student financial aid resources to support student recruitment goals and address student affordability concerns,” the strategic plan said. 

According to the email, the overall plan is meant to broaden the effort to reshape the Columbia student experience and to reflect the ongoing commitment the college has to help students achieve professional success.

Kim said the college will close this year with a deficit of $26 million, which he said is planned and “not an accident.”

“We decided in order to provide more support for our students and generate higher levels of student support, we had to do this,” Kim said. The challenge, and we were doing fine until the year before the pandemic when COVID hit, a whole new set of financial pressures [that] came up to the college, so the deficit has grown, not shrunk.”

Kim said approximately $36 million of the college’s expenditures goes to various scholarships for students. He said since becoming Columbia’s president and CEO in 2013, the number of scholarships the school awards to students has doubled.

Kim said 85% of the money that comes from tuition and the school’s endowment funds employees, faculty and staff, while the remaining 15% goes into the school’s operating budget, which includes building repairs, capital improvements and utilities.

“So when we’re raising tuition, it’s not that that money is going any place new; it’s that the cost of what I just described keeps going up, and we have no other way to fund the college,” Kim said.