Survey regarding tuition increase exposes disapproval of Lehigh

After this Announcement of Lehigh’s 4 percent increase in tuition fees For the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year, a Senate group met with Pat Johnson, Vice President for Finance and Administration, and Provost Nathan Urban to share community concerns and share survey data highlighting opposition to the surge.

Trevor Ballingall, ’23, Member of the Student Senate, sHelp The Board of Trustees also received an invitation to the meeting, but did not respond.

The student senators attended the meeting to help roll back the tuition fee increase and improve transparency in decision-making, Ballingal said. He said their motivation for seeing this change was partly due to the feedback survey Results collected by the Senate.

They have not achieved their original goal of stopping tuition fees from increasing for the next year because the increase has already been completed.

“Our reason for asking is out of real fear and concern and financial fear,” Ballingall said.

The student-generated survey was conducted by 810 students, parents, and alumni. 87 percent of the group were Lehigh students.

When asked how likely they are to recommend Lehigh to a student based on value for money, 86.4 percent responded that they were either “extremely unlikely, unlikely” or “indifferent.”

“I care if someone says something they wouldn’t recommend Lehigh,” said Urban.

Urban said he was surprised by these data and Lehigh took pride in the fact that many families were in attendance, whether from generation to generation or from siblings brought in through recommended experiences.

Aryaan Saigal, 21, said he would recommend Lehigh to a high school student.

“I know it’s getting more and more expensive, but I think the same goes for tuition fees in general,” Saigal said. “Whether you think the actual training in class is worth the price or not, I just think the alumni network and in my experience through recruitment and the like is definitely a step up compared to other schools.”

Ballingall said the price had risen, but Lehigh’s rank had not. In 2015, Lehigh was classified No. 40 on the US News List of Colleges and Universitieswhile Lehigh stops today Number 49 on the same list.

The total cost of attending Lehigh in 2015 was $ 58,510 and it will be about $ 73,250 in the coming year.

“They think they could probably have such high tuition fees because they’re a private institution and because of the Lehigh name,” said Alexa Char, ’22.

In another question from the survey, 96.1 percent of those questioned stated that there was “no transparency” or “lack of transparency” with regard to communication about the increase.

When it came to the recent tuition increase, Ballingall said no students were aware of it until it was final. Once it was public and the Senate pushed back, the surge was too late to turn around.

“One of the real things we’re looking for is the idea of ​​how students can be involved in the conversations that take place before the decision is final,” Ballingall said.

Urban said that in the timeframe that these decisions are being made, there is no way to go back and change them later.

When it comes to being transparent about how the money is being spent, whether it’s new hires, classroom improvements, or investments in buildings, Urban sees the potential for improvement.

“I think we can certainly do more to talk about it, not just when these things are planned, but when these things are completed,” said Urban. “Of course there can be more communication and we are completely open to more communication.”

In the feedback survey, when asked if they had ever raised financial concerns about Lehigh, 62.1 percent of respondents said they were either “extremely dissatisfied”, “dissatisfied” or “indifferent” with the response they received.

In attempts to address financial concerns that had previously arisen due to the pandemic, tuition fees were frozen for the current academic year, although originally a 4 percent increase was planned and students who opted for a complete removal would receive a discount of 10 percent was granted.

“My understanding of this was to recognize some of the challenges that students and families faced in the pandemic, and to realize that we wanted to do as much as possible to keep costs from increasing in ways that are significant Would cause problems for students, ”said Urban.

Lehigh covers 100 percent of proven student financial needs, and Urban said he invested between $ 135 million and $ 138 million in financial aid this year.

“This year we have hopefully emerged from the pandemic, the economy has largely recovered, unemployment has fallen to 6 percent, the stock market is at a high,” said Urban. “So we believe that we are in a situation where hopefully people are in a better position financially overall, and yet I am sure that we will receive requests for additional financial aid because there are people who are in trouble . ”

In the pool of survey participants, 94.5 percent stated that based on their experience they are either “extremely unlikely”, “unlikely” or “indifferent” to a donation to Lehigh.

Saigal said he was not against the idea of ​​making donations in the future.

“I definitely keep in touch with professors I used to have. I think it’s definitely worth giving back to the connections I’ve made, ”he said.

Anna Erickson, 24, meanwhile, said she wasn’t sure she would ever donate to the university.

“It depends on how my next three years go,” said Erickson. “If this was just a precursor to what the administration will be like for the rest of my time here, it definitely isn’t.”

Ballingall said the poll results included 350 paragraphs written by disgruntled students, family members and alumni to express their dissatisfaction.

Another point of contention was that of the university Budget surplus of $ 12 million announced shortly after the tuition fee increase.

Ballingal said the administration shouldn’t expect students to be okay with the situation if they see Lehigh having an excess of money but at the same time being asked to pay more.

“They have 5,200 students, and if they pay an extra $ 2,200 each next year, that’s $ 11 million. That can be fully offset by a budget surplus of $ 12 million if you do the math, ”Ballingall said.

Johnson said the surplus was a forecast rather than a current reality.

Urban also said when decisions were made about tuition fees there were still a lot of unknowns about the incoming money, saying that there are significant costs that make up some of that excess.

Johnson said with the tuition increase they would like to hire people again, pay people their wage increases, and reintroduce old-age pensions.

“I think we need to realize that the students were in the same situation five and ten years ago, or that some things that they only contributed to are now benefiting the students,” said Urban. “I think we are always in this situation at a university because we do things in the long term that we always pay forward to a certain extent.”

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