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Corp. greenlights 4.4 percent tuition jump

Financial aid fund reaches record high, $4.4 million projected budget deficit for fiscal year 2016

At its meeting this weekend, the Corporation approved a 4.4 percent increase in tuition and fees next academic year, elevating the total undergraduate cost of attending the University to $62,046, President Christina Paxson P’19 wrote in a community-wide email Sunday.

With approximately $972 million in estimated revenues, the University is looking at a projected $4.4 million deficit for fiscal year 2016, according to the University Resources Committee’s report to the president.

Compared to fiscal year 2014’s $8.8 million budget deficit and fiscal year 2015’s projected $6.7 million deficit, $4.4 million is a mark of progress, Paxson wrote. But “reductions in the deficit have been supported through the use of $7.5 million of temporary reserves and restricted fund balances, which we cannot count on being available in future years,” she wrote.

The URC will announce recommendations to cut spending by about $7 million later this spring, Paxson wrote.

Decreased external research funding and increased spending to meet the financial needs of students admitted under Brown’s domestic need-blind admission policy are the two main drivers of the deficit, said Provost Vicki Colvin.

The Corporation, the University’s highest governing body,  also approved an 8 percent increase in undergraduate financial aid next year, amounting to a $112.5 million budget — the highest in University history.

With this increase, funds will be directed to “provide a modest increase in scholarships to newly enrolled students from middle-income families,” Paxson wrote.

As current students are already in committed financial aid contracts with the University, the URC decided to target incoming students, hoping to boost yield rates for students in the middle-income bracket, Colvin said. Currently, only a “small percent” of Brown students are in this bracket, she said.

As part of the 4.4 percent tuition and fees uptick, the Corporation approved a 7.5 percent hike in the standard room rate, Paxson wrote. The standard room rate will rise from $7,416 to $7,972, though the suite rate will remain the same. The difference in the rates will decrease to $812 in fiscal year 2016, Paxson wrote.

The goal is to eventually eliminate  the “two-tiered” room rate system, Colvin said, adding that separating students based on their parents’ incomes “just seems counter to Brown’s culture.”

The 7.5 percent increase in the standard room rate is larger than usually recommended by the URC, according to its report to the president. The rate increase is meant to help pay for the debt the University has accumulated as a result of more than $80 million in residence hall renovations, according to the report.

The University will spend another $8 million on Wriston Quadrangle dorm renovations this summer, Paxson wrote.

“The University did phase one last summer and will finish remaining buildings this summer,” wrote Mark Nickel, acting director of news and communications, in an email to The Herald.

The Corporation also accepted about $63 million in gifts at its annual February gathering — a staggering jump from last February’s $26 million.

The steep climb can be attributed, to some extent, to concentrated fundraising efforts for the University’s capital campaign, Colvin said. Paxson has also been instrumental in securing ambitious gifts for Brown, she added.

Paxson underscored a gift of $15 million for students enrolled in the University’s Resumed Undergraduate Education program, calling the pledge a “highlight of the weekend.” Each year, $1 million of the donation will go toward financial aid for RUE students.

Seventeen RUE students currently attend the University. While the donation will allow for a significant increase in the program’s enrollment, it will not expand beyond about 30 students, Colvin said.

A $10 million grant from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation bolstered the capabilities of Linking Students to Internships and Knowledge — an initiative that aims to provide more students receiving financial aid with financial support to complete an internship or research program over the summer — for Frank scholars.

Administrators aspire to a LINK program strong enough to furnish every student on financial aid with funds for summer internships and research, Colvin said, adding that the Frank gift marks another step in that direction.

The Watson Institute for International Studies received significant gifts, including a $4 million donation for a professorship in policy and $1.5 million for postdoctoral fellowships. Watson’s gains signal the institute’s importance to both the University and its donors, Colvin said.

Graduate students will also see improved financial support from the University.

The annual stipend afforded to PhD candidates will grow by 3 percent, and the University will “significantly enhance” support beyond the fifth year of doctoral studies, Paxson wrote.

Both Colvin and Graduate Student Council President Joel Simundich GS voiced approval for a new provision that will ensure grad students continue to receive health care in the seventh year of their doctoral studies. At a rally last week, members of Stand Up for Grad Students — an organization that advocates greater grad student benefits — called for this change, among other demands.

“The idea that we would remove their healthcare benefits in the seventh year seemed really not right,” Colvin said, adding that the provision was necessary for fostering a “culture of care” in the way the University deals with its students.

But the changes leave substantial room for improvement, Simundich said. A larger stipend and some degree of greater support after the fifth year do not resolve the issue that grad students are not guaranteed funding after year five, he said, raising a concern that spurred other protests last spring.

Undergraduates had the opportunity to speak directly with small groups of Corporation members about sexual assault and mental health this weekend — an arrangement for which the Undergraduate Council of Students campaigned, Paxson wrote.

These conversations “definitely were fruitful in the sense that it was a great first step,” said UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15, adding that it was “really important” for Corporation members to “hear firsthand the state of those issues for undergrads.”

But Srinivasan hopes that students will be afforded greater access to the Corporation in the future, adding that this weekend’s conversations “barely scratched the surface” of the many issues she would like to discuss with the body.

The Corporation’s Board of Fellows — one of two committees that comprise the larger body — endorsed the faculty’s approval of establishing a partnership with ROTC units at the College of the Holy Cross, Paxson wrote.


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