Administration names inflation as main factor in tuition and housing increases
Updated: Oct 24
The price of a college education is one of many goods and services impacted by inflation. In the 2022-2023 academic year, the sticker price for Willamette tuition was $45,000 per year, a standard double dorm was $7,440 dollars per year and the 19-meal dining plan was $6,900 per year. However, prices for this academic year depict higher increases than normal.
By comparison, in the 2023-2024 school year, the sticker price for tuition is $48,000 per year, a $3,000 increase. A standard double dorm is now $7,900, a $460 increase. A 19-meal dining plan is now $7,590 per year, a $690 increase.
While it isn’t unusual for prices to slightly increase, this year’s increase is particularly high. Daniel Valles, the senior vice president and chief operations officer, clarified that sticker prices are not what students pay, and that the Willamette financial aid packages significantly decrease the price paid. However, he acknowledged that the percent increase for tuition, which is 6.7%, is an abnormally large increase in the past few years, especially since the pandemic. “During the pandemic we had really attempted to keep our increases a little bit lower,” Valles said. “I seem to recall them being in the 3% to 4% per year range.”
Valles noted the factors considered when determining the tuition and housing rates for this academic year. One mentioned was that Willamette, like other academic institutions, has struggled to rebound from the economic burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the more prevalent issue is the high level of inflation, which exacerbates the issues left from the pandemic.
Tori Ruiz, the assistant director of residence life and housing operations, described how inflation rates, particularly the food and shelter rates, impact Willamette housing and meal plan costs. “Labor costs more, parts cost more, the upkeep of the building costs more. It just costs more to do business,” Ruiz explained. “[For Bon Appetit], they have to purchase food just like the rest of us, so in order to stay afloat, they have to raise their own prices.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average percent increase in U.S. cities for food and shelter from August 2022 to August 2023 were 4.3% and 7.3%, respectively.
Alysha Villelli (‘26) acknowledged the concerns of inflation on the university, but noted that these issues are felt at the student level. “I understand that the price of living is increasing, especially with inflation, so we have to accept some changes,” Villelli said. “But coming back after COVID, and having so many students reemerging into the college experience, I think keeping tuition and housing at a similar rate would have been a good idea.”
Felix Mcpartland-Cosmann (‘25) noted the impacts these increases can have on students, especially those coming from lower-income backgrounds. “I imagine that can be pretty stressful. Especially if they are taking out student loans, that’s like an ever increasing number that they are dealing with,” Mcpartland-Cosmann said.
Another aspect Valles wants students to remember is that the discussions of budgeting for the following academic year starts in the first semester of the current one. As he explained, the process for deciding tuition rates for the 2023-2024 academic year started in October 2022. This is so students have an estimated tuition price for when they fill out the FAFSA, which typically opens in October. A drawback of creating the estimate with this timeline is that the Board of Trustees, who set the budget, have a harder time anticipating the economic climate and incoming class size for the following academic year. At the next meeting in February, the housing prices are estimated when they have more information about the incoming class, but that also delays when students receive housing information.
Regarding communication, Valles stated that tuition rates are shared soon after the October board meeting, and the students are informed of housing prices during the second semester when they are making housing decisions for the following year. However, he also expressed that the medium of communication of these changes hasn’t always been consistent. “We've sent letters in the past. I think we have, at some point, sent emails, so usually there's some form of communication in the spring,” Valles said. For Ruiz, she is working to have more intentional communication regarding the housing prices, including notices in Today@Willamette.
Valles noted that he wants to continue finding ways to have open communication with students. One way he mentioned was with open office hours in the Bistro with the Associated Students of Willamette University so students can have an opportunity to ask him questions.
Ruiz placed similar emphasis on expanding student communication, and encouraged students to visit the Residence Life and Housing office and ask questions. Ultimately, she wants the student body to know that they are here to help.