Bucknell increases cost to roughly $80k per year

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Sienna Williams / The Bucknellian

Miranda Neusner and Sophie Bajaj

Interim Vice President of Finance & Administration Param Bedi released a statement on Feb. 16, announcing that Bucknell’s tuition will increase for the 2023-2024 academic year — putting an $80,000 price tag on the university. 

The university’s Board of Trustees gathered for their annual winter meeting in New York City, where they approved a 4.91 percent increase in tuition.

Before the recent announcement, Bucknell was already one of the most expensive private universities in the country. US News & World Report found that the national average cost of attendance for other similarly ranked private universities is $39,700, a stark difference from tuition at Bucknell. 

Tuition isn’t the end of the ongoing list of financial obligations that many students at Bucknell see as necessary expenses. In addition to housing, books and basic necessities, meal plans are required for the first three years on campus.

Many students choose to bring cars to campus given the remote location of Lewisburg, which also presents challenges for students without cars to find affordable transportation to nearby airports. Socially, students also face expenses to participate in clubs and Greek letter organizations that require membership dues, of which 49 percent of eligible students get involved in during their time at Bucknell. 

Bucknell’s student body shares a diverse economic background — with many students able to afford the full extent of a Bucknell education, while many others rely exclusively on full or partial financial aid and grants.

Approximately 53 percent of Bucknell’s undergraduate students receive Bucknell grants or scholarships, which the Board has stated in the past, and many of the plans with the new budget are aimed at supporting students in scholarship programs. But ultimately, the substantial increase in tuition is unprecedented for all students and will hit many students harder than others. 

President John Bravman explained that this change in tuition is much higher than previous years because of the effort to keep tuition as low as possible for students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the many negative byproducts of the pandemic, many middle-class families have experienced significant financial hardship as the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported. BLS showed that inflation outpaced wages, and many Americans lost their jobs.

The S&P 500 Index indicated that many households saw losses in stock market investments in 2022, as the market had its worst year since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. People who had saved for tuition in stocks saw the value of those savings decline significantly.

Bucknell’s new cost is roughly equivalent to the median household income for American families, which is about $78,000 according to the US Census.

While American pocketbooks can’t keep up with soaring prices, the demand for higher education continues to rise. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate enrollment across the country is projected to rise 8 percent, to roughly 17 million students, by 2030.

Many of the physical reminders of the pandemic have vanished from many people’s daily lives, but the financial impacts of COVID are far from disappearing from American households. 

The rise in tuition will bring about changes that students will see on campus. The Board approved the administration’s recommendation to allocate funds for the construction of a team building at the Pascucci Family Athletics Complex, as well as pledging to fund a new office on campus, the Center for Access & Success.

The Center for Access and Success will open in Fall 2023, and will be dedicated to supporting students in Bucknell’s five scholarship programs: Gateway Scholars Program, Charles T. Bauer Scholars Program, Posse Scholars Program, Langone and Langone-Walling Scholars Programs and the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program.

It still is unclear what other changes will be made to improve the student experience at Bucknell given the increase in tuition, but President Bravman is confident that “this is a time marked by exciting progress and momentum.”

President Bravman and the Board have said they remain certain that increased funding will create an improved academic environment for students at Bucknell.

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