Tuition increases in response to economy

The cost for the fall 2009 semester will be raised $390, to a total of $6,650

By Erica Eding |

Tuition increases as Flagler rides out the economic storm
Flagler College’s tuition will rise by about 6 percent for the fall semester, which is not a dramatic increase by most standards.

However, the tuition hike comes at a time when many students are struggling financially. The cost for the fall ’09 semester will be $6650, compared to $6260 this semester. It’s a $390 increase.

“A couple hundred dollars does make a difference,” Rebecca Hurst, a senior, said.

Hurst said the amount doesn’t seem like a lot, but tuition has been slowly rising throughout her college career.

Hurst gave the example of her roommate, who used to receive a few thousand dollars as a tuition refund.

“This semester she got about 20 dollars,” Hurst said.

Christopher Haffner, director of Financial Aid, said that although students are struggling to make ends meet, the college also needs to stay afloat.

Flagler College’s most serious economic challenge is the state of the stock market. According to President William Abare Jr., the school holds endowments in the form of stocks and property in the Bahamas. The school is able to withdraw five percent of the endowment’s value if some stocks are sold. However, Abare said now is not the time to tap that money.

“The market value of our endowment has dropped in value about 30 percent,” Abare said. “If you sell stocks at a reduced value, then it’s kind of like eating your seed corn.”

Abare said he has not drawn from the endowment money since January 2008 when he saw the stock market begin to fall. He hopes to last at least until next January before selling stocks so the market can improve.

Abare said the endowment money that would have been available for this year was $2 million. “It’s not pocket change,” he said.

Although the money would have benefited the school this year, Abare said withdrawing it during an economic downturn was not a wise decision. “You’re hurting yourself in years to come,” he said.

In the meantime, Flagler College is tightening the belt and increasing tuition. According to Abare, the school will not seek more money by accepting additional students. At the time of publication, the number of students accepted for the fall semester had risen by only 14 students compared to the number accepted this semester.

While the college waits for the stock market to improve, some projects will either be put on hold or progress slowly. Abare said plans for a better communication facility and new fields for intramural sports are under consideration, but face the slow process of raising donations. Plans for more student housing will also be placed on hold unless demand suddenly increases.

Although new construction projects seem unlikely next year, students can look forward to meeting new professors. Five faculty positions have been added for the fall semester in mathematics, graphic design, business administration, communication and general education.

Abare said that even an economic downturn can’t affect the education that Flagler students receive. “We certainly don’t want to affect the instructional program,” Abare said.

Flagler hopes to ride out the economic storm with as little impact on students as possible. However, some students feel that routine small tuition increases could harm the college.

“When people look at Flagler and see the history,” Hurst said, “are they really going to want to come here when they see that tuition just went up and will probably go up again?”

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