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STANFORD -- In an effort to rein in the price of college, the Stanford Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Feb. 13, approved a tuition rate increase of 4 percent for 1996-97, the smallest increase in at least 30 years.
Tuition, room and board for undergraduates in 1996-97 will be $27,827, compared with $26,749 in 1995-96. Tuition also will increase 4 percent for general graduate programs and for professional programs in the Law School, Medical School, Graduate School of Business and School of Engineering.
Undergraduate tuition will be $20,490 for 1996-97 compared with $19,695 the previous year. Room and board will be $7,337 for 1996-97 compared with $7,054 the previous year.
John Freidenrich, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, "I'm pleased that we will be able to keep the increase to that level."
Trustee Charles Ogletree, a member of the board's finance committee, said, "Stanford has taken a very careful look at the economic implications of tuition increases and we are mindful that the burden on the middle class in trying to support children pursuing higher education, has increased.
"The decision reflects the sense of both rational business judgment and compassion in thinking about creating opportunities for students to pursue an education at Stanford. I hope that economic circumstances will allow this trend to continue, but as with anything, it's hard to predict the future," he said.
Stanford's move to trim its tuition growth comes on the heels of several recent announcements by smaller colleges and public universities that they will freeze or cut college costs.
"Between the low inflation rates and this general pressure on tuition, we've all reached the same conclusions that it is about time to start bringing the rate of increase down," said Geoffrey Cox, vice provost and dean for institutional planning at Stanford.
Over the past five years, Stanford's average tuition increase was above the median increase in a Cambridge Associates survey of private colleges and universities. The survey includes almost all of the four-year private institutions in the United States. Stanford's increase during that period also was higher than that of all except two schools in a survey of colleges and universities belonging to the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, a group of private institutions that includes Ivy League schools.
Tuition represents about half of Stanford's unrestricted revenue - the pool of money over which the university has the greatest control. University budget officials estimate that tuition covers only 60 percent of the cost of a Stanford education.
After last year's 5.5 percent tuition rate increase, budget officials said they would investigate how slower growth in tuition rates would affect the university's affordability, academic quality and "pricing position" relative to other institutions.
"We really have had to get on top of these costs," Cox said. "We can't expect families to pay more and more in real terms every year. We are very conscious of that, so we are trying very hard to manage ourselves as best we can."
Substantial reductions in administrative costs over the past four years made Stanford's lower tuition rate for 1996-97 possible, Cox said.
"We are trying very hard to manage ourselves so we don't require students to pay more each year," Cox said. "But it's a very tough game and we don't know how it's going to play out."
Whether the curb on tuition growth will continue in the foreseeable future depends in part on how well the university can position itself for change, he said.
"We continue to be worried about federal cutbacks and support for higher education in general. We are going to try our best each year to continue along this line. But I think we are in for a tough few years, trying to keep the revenue at a level that allows us to sustain the institution at its current level," Cox said.
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