IU striving to keep tuition affordable

December 29, 2008

Your Dec. 8 editorial, "State flunking affordability test," quotes liberally from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education's recent report, which concludes that 49 of 50 states—including Indiana—deserve an "F" for their affordability efforts. Unfortunately, this grade is based on an analysis that dramatically overstates college costs in Indiana—or at least those costs incurred by Hoosiers attending Indiana University.

According to your editorial, the national report "found that the average Indiana family must spend 30 percent of its income to afford education at a public four-year university." In truth, the average Indiana family spends 18 percent of its income to attend a premier public four-year campus in Bloomington and 16 percent at our outstanding Indianapolis campus.

The editorial goes on to quote the national report as concluding that "the state does not offer low-priced college opportunities." Using the report's methodology, the average annual out-of-pocket costs at our three lowest-priced regional campuses range from $1,240 at Richmond to $1,989 in Kokomo. I well understand that these amounts are not inexpensive in these challenging economic times, but they are far below what is suggested by the rhetoric in this report.

The editorial's author encourages "public universities (to) get serious about keeping tuition hikes in check." Tuition for Hoosiers attending IU's seven campuses has increased at an average rate of 4.6 percent per year over the last five years. President Michael McRobbie is very aware that, without simultaneous aggressive action, IU would be in danger of losing its role as a public institution that is accessible and affordable to qualified Hoosiers.

To address the challenges created by our tuition increases, the seven campuses have increased financial aid grants—no loans here—by 11.4 percent per year over the last five years. The average Indiana resident student last year received a grant that was 54-percent higher than the average grant in 2003-2004.

Your editorial is correct that the financial resources needed to attend college can be substantial for students and families, regardless of financial aid. That is why those of us at Indiana University are exploring all avenues to make an IU education more affordable. We also continue to examine methods to reduce operating expenses and find other efficiencies that can pass on further savings to students and families.

At Indiana University, we are working very hard to hold down the actual out-of-pocket costs paid by Hoosier families, and we are having success. We realize, though, that we need to do more with less.

Neil Theobald
Chief financial officer
Indiana University

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