The Ursuline College got through its first 150 years, according to President Christine De Vinne, thanks to two things: planning and prayer.
Officials there will continue to do the same, she said. But rising costs and a stretched supply chain are impacting that planning at smaller private colleges such as the Ursulines. The unadjusted rate of inflation over the past 12 months hit 8.3% in April, according to the most recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Coupled with the ongoing pandemic and amplified enrollment challenges in recent years, this is one of the latest hurdles facing higher education, especially those institutions that are more dependent on tuition fees.
“One of the challenges of this COVID season is that the planning has been more erratic,” De Vinne said. “We can write the plan, but we don’t know what the sellers are going to come back with, we don’t know what the supply chain is going to come back with.”
Ursuline, a university with approximately 900 full-time students, recently appointed Timothy Clymer as vice president of finance and administration at its Pepper Pike campus.
Clymer doesn’t think this surge in inflation is as big of a challenge as, say, the onset of the pandemic or the Great Recession. He pointed out that private institutions face the same kinds of struggles as businesses and individuals.
Longer supplier lead times extend college lead times. It could take a year to replace an HVAC unit on the roof of the Ursuline Library. Updating a boiler in a dorm will not happen until mid-September.
There is also the bustling job market. De Vinne said the campus is implementing measures, including shortened work days on Fridays in the summer, in an effort to help attract and retain employees.
And rising talent prices can be passed on to the college as a consumer. Campus officials try to build contingency planning into their budget to absorb the hits when and where possible, but Clymer acknowledges it can be a challenge.
“A lot of them can be a bit of a surprise,” he said. “You don’t really know what your janitorial raise will look like until the contract expires.”
Baldwin Wallace University in Berea credits its long-term contracts with helping the college with about 3,000 full-time students “manage recent higher-than-usual inflation.”
“However, if inflation continues to run out of control, additional efforts may need to be made in the future,” William Reniff, BW’s vice president of finance and administration, told Crain’s Cleveland Business in a statement. emailed last month.
Travel costs are on the rise for Malone University, impacting athletic and professional development opportunities, according to officials at the North Canton campus, which has about 1,200 full-time students. Hiring qualified candidates at “reasonable” rates of pay continues to be a challenge. Additionally, executives said inflationary measures are impacting investment returns from its endowment, though it currently stands at $25 million, down from $22 million at the end of June 2021.
Lake Erie College and its campus leaders of about 1,000 students are also feeling the crisis. Professional insurance rates have increased. Costs associated with caring for horses for its equestrian degree programs was another area of increased spending.
“As an institution that is so heavily dependent on revenue from tuition, accommodation, and meals, rising costs are increasing the burden of fundraising,” Painesville institution officials said. to Crain’s via email last month.
And that tuition fees increase locally. New students and transfer students to Hiram College will have their tuition increased by 2% for the 2022-23 academic year at an estimated list price of $25,000. Undergraduate students at Ursuline will see a list price of $36,390 for a full-time course load of up to 12-18 credits. This is 3% more than the previous school year. Tuition at Malone University is also increasing by 3%, to an advertised price of $33,400 per year for a full-time schedule.
Price tags already tended to increase in private non-profit organizations. The average published price of tuition and fees at these four-year institutions across the country was $38,070 for the last academic year, about $800 more than in 2020-21.
Still, some experts warn that those increases may still not be enough.
“Rarely do tuition increases cover all expected costs, which means cuts in other areas to do what institutions believe are the essentials they need to get done,” Jim Hundrieser, vice president of advisory services for the National Association of College and University Business Leaders, Inside Higher Ed told in May.