The Affordability Steering Committee and Working Group Annual Report to the University Senate
April 26, 2018
President Andrew Hamilton created the Affordability Steering Committee in March, 2016. The Working Group was formed shortly after. Our first step was to solicit ideas from the wider NYU community. To that end, we created a web-based portal (IdeaScale) and held ten in-person “How Might We” sessions. We were encouraged by the extent of the response. We had just under 4,700 unique individuals log in to the site, generated 1,203 ideas which received 21,483 votes and 602 comments.
Both the Steering Committee and the Working Group are clear that efforts toward affordability must be understood within a wider context of access, student success and ultimately value. Access of course underscores the commitment NYU has to students from all backgrounds. Student success speaks to both the student experience while at NYU and after NYU. And we always need to keep in mind the underlying and longlasting value of a liberal arts education in the context of a research university.
We have worked on multiple aspects of this challenge – increasing affordability while supporting access, enhancing student success and reinforcing the value of an NYU education. The Steering Committee and the Working Group have been gratified that the university has slowed the rate of increase in cost of undergraduate attendance over the past three years. In 2016–17 the overall cost of undergraduate attendance increased by just 2%, the smallest such increase in over 20 years. The tuition component of the increase was 2.9% — lower than that at peer institutions, whose increases ranged from 3.5% to 3.9%. Room, board, and administrative fees also were frozen at the previous year’s levels.
For academic year 2017–18, the overall cost of undergraduate attendance went up just 2.3% for tuition, room and board, and fees, compared to typical increases in recent years of 3.5 to 3.9%. The two-year increase in cost of undergraduate attendance is lower than any two-year period in the last 20 years, and significantly lower than peer schools’ increases over the same period.
For academic year 2018–19, the overall cost of undergraduate attendance was held to 2.7% for tuition, room and board, and fees. These smaller-than-customary increases have been made possible by identifying $10m in administrative efficiencies and savings.
Fundraising has been an integral part of enabling the University to increase scholarships. The University continues its efforts to raise $1 billion for scholarship aid through the Momentum Campaign. As of April 19, 2018, we are so very close: we have raised $987,370 and fully expect to achieve our $1billion goal within weeks. Raising scholarship funds remains at the top of NYU’s fundraising priorities.
Rising Violets, a crowdfunding platform that we launched last year raised a total of $754,503 this year, a 1,287% increase from funds raised last year. Participation rates also increased exponentially, from 536 gifts to 2,527 gifts, a 371% increase.
On the academic side, we also launched NYU Accelerate, a program to alert undergraduate students of the opportunity to graduate in three and a half years or even three years – an opportunity that has always existed at NYU, but one we wanted to make sure all NYU students understood was available.
While much of our work focused on undergraduate students, we also understood our obligation to consider affordability at the graduate level. NYU supports doctoral study with significant financial resources.
At the master’s level, schools have been working in various ways to address affordability, including adding new one year masters at Stern and at Wagner, increasing the number of combined undergraduate and graduate degrees – where students can get both degrees in 5 years instead of the 6 it would normally take. Schools have also added funds to the yellow ribbon program – a scholarship designed to help veteran students supplement their Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition benefits.
One of the issues that emerged from IdeaScale as a major pain point for students was the cost of books. Our goal was to make it possible for students to cut the price of books and other educational materials by 50%. We have achieved this. We addressed this on multiple fronts. We encouraged – and are still encouraging – faculty to review their syllabi and do two things; consider substituting free online material where appropriate and eliminating books that the professor no longer relies on in teaching the course. We also have introduced a new tool – Follett Discover – that allows faculty to see the price of their course requirements and students to consider options other than purchasing new books such as rentals or used books. The bookstore also offered $100,000 in Textbook Grants, which this past year helped 525 students to offset costs for textbooks.
Purchasing a computer can be a major burden for students. Chromebooks, laptops that run on Google's Chrome operating system as opposed to an operating system like Windows or macOS, are an increasingly attractive and affordable alternative. We launched a pilot to explore the viability of Chromebooks for NYU students.
One significant cost of studying at NYU New York is housing. We are making progress in exploring intergenerational housing options.
The opportunity for students to earn money on campus is another element of the affordability strategy. In March 2016, President Hamilton announced that NYU student wages will increase to $15 an hour, to be phased in by the upcoming 2018–2019 academic year. We have also been working with schools, departments and units to decrease our spending on temporary employees and hire students instead where appropriate.
Affordability is linked to value, as mentioned above. The School of Professional Studies launched Professional Edge – a program offering the entire catalog of non-credit SPS courses to NYU juniors and seniors at no cost. This past fall 54 students took advantage of Professional Edge; the numbers almost doubled for spring with 98 students enrolled.
Our exploration into affordability brought to our attention a challenge for those receiving tuition remission – we learned that those receiving tuition remission who would have been eligible for scholarship greater than the amount of their tuition remission were not getting access to that funding – we have modified the policy to remedy that.
Early on, we realized that helping students and families better understand the financial landscape related to financing the cost of higher education was important. We contracted with iGrad, a financial education platform that provides access to the tools necessary to be successful with contemporary personal finance. iGrad is a resource to prospective and current students, as well as faculty and staff.
Affordability is a national issue that spans the higher education landscape. We have been scanning institutions for ideas and are gratified to have been looked to by other schools as a model and guide for their efforts. This spring the George Washington University student press contacted us to discuss a recent study their Student Association had done on affordability. We were pleased to find NYU showing up as less expensive on a series of non-tuition items.
Our work is in no way done. We continue to explore actions the University can take to make NYU more affordable for more people; we also strive towards a University-wide culture shift through which affordability and the overall value of an NYU education become a consideration in every conversation and decision that take place. The Steering Committee and Working Group look forward to continuing this important work over the next academic year.