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Washington U. raises fund-raising goal – and tuition

Washington University

Donors to Washington University are giving more than anticipated – and students will be paying more in the fall as well.

The university said Thursday that it is ahead of its timetable for its $2.2 billion fund-raising campaign slated to end on Dec. 31, 2018, so it is raising its goal to $2.5 billion. As of the end of last month, the university said, alumni, parents and others had contributed $2.12 billion to the campaign, which is titled “Leading Together.”

The university also announced this month that as of this fall, tuition for undergraduate students will rise to $48,950, an increase of 3.5 percent. Tuition rose by the same percentage last year, and Washington U. officials said that is the smallest percentage increase in tuition for the school in 47 years. Similar percentage increases will be charged by other units of the university.

As of the end of June 2015, the university’s endowment totaled $6.9 billion. University endowments generally are made up primarily of funds restricted for certain purposes. 

Officials in higher education say that one reason for increases in tuition is for schools to raise enough revenue to be able to provide financial aid for students who cannot pay full price. Typically, most students pay less than the full tuition figure.

In a letter to students and parents notifying them of the tuition increase, Provost Holden Thorp put it this way:

“The tuition you pay allows us to fulfill our mission of providing a world-class university experience inside and outside the classroom.

“It also enables us to address the very important goal of meeting the financial needs of all of our students. Doing so is one of our highest priorities,” 

In a list of frequently asked questions that was included with the letter notifying students and parents of the tuition increase, the university said:

“While the university and its students benefit greatly from the generosity of our donors and the income from our endowment, tuition revenue remains the university’s largest unrestricted revenue stream. It is what allows us to attract the best and brightest students and faculty, maintain the quality of our academic programs and facilities, and continue our rich tradition of excellence.”

It also noted that since 2013, the university has identified $20 million in annual, ongoing savings in operations that has allowed it to keep costs down.

An editorial in the university’s student newspaper Student Life criticized assurances that the percentage increase of the tuition hike is relatively low. The dollar figures, it said, remain too high for many students.

“While increases due to inflation are to be expected, these exceed the current 0.7 percent inflation rate. Even with a downward trending percentage, it seems, students are losing out.

“It’s understandable if tuition rates may be going up to pay for important expenses like professors’ and employees’ salaries, but it’s disingenuous to present a tuition hike as if it’s alleviating part of the strain, when in fact it isn’t. Couple that with a lack of explanation as to where exactly the money from the tuition increase is going, and the result is mistrust between student and institution.”

In a statement announcing the new fund-raising goal, Washington U. Chancellor Mark Wrighton said the school has made great progress but has not yet achieved all the goals it wants to reach.

“We have not yet accomplished everything we set out to do,” Wrighton says. “A great university has great responsibilities — to our students and to the society we serve. That responsibility has increased in proportion to the growth and progress we have achieved through the campaign. It offers an unprecedented opportunity — and a responsibility — to aim even higher.

“Leading Together already has enabled us to make exciting new breakthroughs in medicine and genomics to support the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness and other devastating diseases. The campaign has helped us build on our expertise in social work, public health, law and business to improve the well-being of people in St. Louis and in communities around the world.

“The campaign has made it possible for our scientists and scholars to make new discoveries and innovations in the sciences, the social sciences, and the arts. It enables our researchers to work toward a sustainable environment and a more just society. And Leading Together is striving to make a top-tier education possible for every qualified undergraduate and graduate student who aspires to attend Washington University.”

Follow Dale on Twitter: @dalesinger

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.