How the wealthiest colleges are getting away with charging more while providing less

By: | October 16, 2020

Although Yale and other schools are spending freely on Covid-19 testing and masks to keep their campuses healthy, Johnson can’t help but feel a bit cheated. She notes that Yale is cutting back some educational expenses, including less staff in the library and reduced hours. Yet Yale is charging Johnson and other students $57,700 in tuition this academic year, a 4% increase from last year’s rate.

“It’s impossible to learn in the same way and connect to my community in the same way as it was when we were in person,” says Johnson, the vice president of Yale’s college council. “The university’s refusal to confront that reality or even discuss tuition is kind of indicative of their larger refusal to confront the ways in which Covid has affected student life.”

Yale’s endowment has never been bigger, returning 6.8% in its fiscal year ending in June and growing to $31.2 billion, or about $2 million per full-time student. Harvard and Dartmouth’s endowments both are up better than 7% in that time, and Brown’s enjoyed a knockout year with a 12.1% return. But all of these schools and most of their peers, among elite colleges, have raised their prices during one of the worst recessions in history.

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