On Saturday Feb. 11 the Corporation, the University’s uppermost governing body, voted to approve a $1.1 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year, which is a 3.8 percent increase from last year’s and the largest in the University’s history. The budget includes a 4 percent increase in undergraduate tuition, a 16 percent average increase in the tuition of some STEM and business master’s programs and an 11 percent increase in financial aid.
The budget report was generated by the University Resources Committee — which is made up of faculty, staff and administrators along with undergraduate, graduate and medical school students — over the course of the fall semester and was completed at the end of January. The key initiatives outlined in the report aim to support improvements in “financial aid, diversity and inclusion initiatives, student support (and) teacher and research infrastructure,” according to a University press release.
The increase in the financial aid budget — set to be $135.4 million — is offset by an increase in tuition. With tuition comprising 65 percent of the University’s revenue, the 4 percent tuition increase will bring the cost of a Brown education to $54,320 per year. This percentage is consistent with tuition increases of the past several years — 2017-18 saw a 4.1 percent increase in tuition and tuition the year previous rose by 4.5 percent. In addition, the room rate will rise by about 4 percent and board will increase by 6 percent, according to the URC report.
Provost Richard Locke P’18, who leads the URC, acknowledges that at “some point we are really going to hit the ceiling and are not going to be able to increase the tuition on an annual basis. ... If we can make tuition and fees a smaller percentage of our total budget through growing the endowment, growing research (and) getting better at fundraising, we will be less dependent on tuition and fees and will have the wiggle room to not go up close to four percent every year,” he said.
The URC’s report aims to diversify revenue sources by increasing the cost of certain master’s programs such as computer science, data science, engineering, physics and entrepreneurship to match market-based pricing, which factors in the cost of the similar programs at peer institutions. Prior to this change, all of Brown’s master’s programs cost the same as its undergraduate tuition, according to Locke. The computer science program tuition will increase by 20 percent, the data science and engineering programs by 17, Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship by 15 and physics by 10 — all of which combined will bring the University about $1 million each year in additional revenue, according to the URC report.
It is important to match graduate tuition with student earning potential, Locke said. “We found that those who are in master’s programs such as computer and data science go off and get high-paying jobs, so it seemed to me that the tuitions for these programs should correspond to that,” Locke said.
Part of the increase in financial aid corresponds to the University’s success in raising capital for Brown Promise, which aims to replace loans with scholarships, The Herald previously reported. The initiative will be instituted for the 2018-19 academic year, Locke said.
Besides financial aid, other investments outlined in the operating budget are aimed at diversity and inclusion. “We really grew the QuestBridge program from three QuestBridge matches to 20 to 25,” Locke said. QuestBridge is a non-profit organization that helps low-income students through the college application process. Additionally, “we doubled the funding to support low-income students to come to (A Day on College Hill) and we increased staffing in the English Language Center as well as in the Title IX office,” Locke added.
The URC report projects a $5.5 million budget deficit, but that estimate is the result of conservative bookkeeping, Locke said. “So when you have a budget of $1.1 billion, a project deficit of $5.5 million is almost a rounding error.”
Building the budget “really is not a top-down decision-making process, but really emphasizes community input and engagement,” Locke said. “Organizing (the committee) this way makes the budget stronger because getting input from a vast array of people allows us to find the proper balance of things such as diversity with research.”