The news of Cabrini University closing it’s doors at the conclusion of the 2023-2024 school year was shocking to current students, staff, and alumni when it broke earlier this summer. But a less talked about institutional change caught even more families off guard as they saw a larger number than usual in their tuition statement.
As posted on the official school website, Cabrini’s base undergraduate tuition for the 2023-2024 school year was announced to be $34,800. This is a 3.5% increase from 2022-2023, where base tuition was $33,650.
While Cabrini prides itself of having 99% of students receive some form of financial aid, the move to increase tuition by $1,150 was a cause for concern as families were still digesting the news about the status of the institution. Many questions arose to which there was minimal answers, and this is a situation that college students are being put in across the country.
Higher education challenged by inflation
The effects of inflation have had a serious impact on institutions all over the United States. Cabrini’s Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Angela Buchanico was able to touch on why the Board of Trustees made the decision to increase annual tuition.
“The cost of utilities, gasoline, and food have all experienced significant inflation in recent years,” said Buchanico. “This includes higher education, and all institutions have had to consider how to address such rising operating costs.”
Buchanico mentioned that the Board of Trustees approved the increase in tuition back in October 2022, during a time when other institutions made public their own tuition changes. Forbes reported details in March 2023 of the most elite universities across the country who were increasing the cost to attend their school. Duke and Georgetown had to raise tuition 4.9% for this coming academic year while Stanford announced they would increase by 7%, their largest one-year increase since 2013.
The 2022 Commonfund Higher Education Price Index® (HEPI) reported in December that inflation for U.S. colleges and universities rose 5.2% during the fiscal year. The report noted that costs rose due to increases in faculty salaires, administrative salaries, clerical salaries, service employee salaries, fringe benefits, miscellaneous services, supplies/materials, and utilities. All of these factors have been felt by nearly every 4-year institution across the country.
Buchanico noted that the 3.5% increase was a calculated number and was comparable to other colleges/universities around Philadelphia.
“The national average for tuition increases falls in the range of 4-7%, and Cabrini’s increase is below average for similar private institutions in the area,” said Buchanico. “We have also made every effort to contain our fees, taking care to only increase by the amount necessary to continue to provide a quality education, necessary services, and support for all our students. As we set these rates to remain competitive and fiscally sound in our final academic year, we maintain Cabrini’s commitment to providing a transformative education and the meaningful student experiences they expect and deserve.”
While the reasoning behind the tuition increase was justified by Cabrini’s administration, there was still frustration felt from members of the community as they reacted to the change on social media. Some students were confused that they were learning about the increased cost around the same time that the University announced it would close.
“I feel like it doesn’t make sense for us to pay more when the school is closing,” said Michelle Chambers, senior exercise science major. “It’s more likely this year that come spring, some of our professors are going to be gone and they’ll have to fill it with adjuncts just so we can have those classes. Our level of education isn’t guaranteed anymore.”
The real reason this topic brought a lot of criticism from the community was because of a communication gap that left more questions than answers. Students and families were left to speculate on what caused these changes in such a tumultuous time.
“I didn’t get any information about the increase in tuition,” said Julia Singer, senior early education major. “I really think that Cabrini should have been more transparent, they could have gave some sort of warning to students. It’s really frustrating.”
Singer at first didn’t think the increase was fair, agreeing with a majority of those online who saw the number as a $1,150 raise without any explanation. However, as she began to hear more on the background of the decision it was clearer to see why it needed to happen. She believes that proper communication could have made this less of a controversy.
“The key to everything in life is communication,” said Singer. “If the university can’t properly communicate with their students and families, especially about financial matters, it’s going to cause people to react negatively instead of understand why the changes were necessary.”