Tuition increase brings total cost of attendance to $66,730


As Lehigh’s tuition continues to increase, the administration must strategize a plan that meets the financial requirements of the growing university while still accommodating the financial needs of students.

This year’s 4.3 percent increase — which raises tuition from $50,320 to $52,480 and brings the approximate total cost of attendance to $66,730 — can largely be attributed to a rise in staff salaries and operating costs, said Patricia Johnson, the vice president of finance and administration.

“We have increased expenses each year and everything goes up, salaries being a big part of that,” Johnson said. “We pay for a lot of our faculty’s salaries from our endowment, but we need more gifts in order to bring that amount up, so we balance our operating budget against what our endowment spending is. As a university, certainly the people are the most expensive part.”

Johnson said the Office of Finance and Administration will use technology to try to keep tuition rates down, especially as the university increases the salaries of professors and faculty of higher merit and the student body increases.

“We’re looking at ways we can grow the student body without increasing the staff,” Johnson said. “The way we can do that is with more efficiency using electronic means, workflows, and having faculty that are very skilled and can produce a lot more work.”

With the increase in tuition for the upcoming year, the Office of Financial Aid must adjust aid packages to continue to meet 100 percent of undergraduate demonstrated need.

Jennifer Mertz, the director of the Office of Financial Aid, said Lehigh’s budget for financial aid is sufficient to cover the cost of attendance for need-based aid.

“We evaluate need every year, and it is based on an expected family contribution,” Mertz said. “So it doesn’t mean that every student’s aid package will go up exactly the amount that the price of tuition goes up, because the expected family contribution can change.”

Mertz said her hardest obstacle is having conversations with families struggling to pay the full cost of attendance. Although Lehigh’s need-analysis and packaging policies are committed to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated need, Mertz said some families struggle because Lehigh does not have all the resources to provide exactly what everyone needs.

Kevin Ly, ’19, the founder of F1RST, a club for first-generation and working-class students, said the tuition increase is not easy for everyone.

“Financial aid does a really good job at meeting 100 percent of student need and my financial aid package is pretty consistent, even with the rise in tuition every year,” Ly said. “I think Lehigh is definitely worth the cost, but there are members of F1RST who have external factors, like having to financially support their families at home that take away from their Lehigh experience.”

Caroline Carlton, ’21, said Lehigh’s tuition has had a large impact on her family.

“(My family members’) lives have changed just for me to be able to go to college,” Carlton said. “But I do think that a college education is so important and not just with a career path, but also to help transition you into being an adult. Tuition costs are unreasonably high, though, and I think they’re definitely taking away opportunities for people who can’t afford it.”

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  1. Mr. Cost Cutter on

    I am a parent paying full freight so every dollar of increase is a dollar I must now save/borrow somehow.

    I imagine many families are concerned about the more than 4.25% increase in tuition.

    I believe LU is needs to go on a diet and reallocate resources – those are administrative problems so I am looking to the President. Too many deans, asst deans, coordinators, and asst coordinators and in some dept too many profs and in others not enough. Step down from police force to campus security. Let’s get some creative cost saving out of the box thinking President Simon. You and the Board need to run a more efficient business than you are or use that endowment or an annual fund to offset expenses.

    Pres. Simon’s old school, UVA, just announced a 2.2% increase in tuition for in-state tuition and 3.5% increase for out-of-state tuition – inline with the median increase across the country.

    • UVA is a public school, which means the admin have to be more careful about fraud. Enough is out in the public eye by law, and enough is actually being looked at by the public, that it’s not that hard to get caught with your hands in the till. Doesn’t stop public-U administrators from trying.

      Call Simon’s office and tell them you want to see a copy of the budget, because you want to see where your money is going before you write that check. Take a B&W reporter with you. See what happens and how deep the freakout goes. I’d like to see a few hundred tuition-paying parents do that.

  2. Amy Charles '89 on

    A question: What happens when Gen Z and parents demand to see an actual university budget before forking over that kind of cash? Because the only sensible thing to say to assertions like the ones in this story is “I don’t believe you.” If Lehigh’s decided that it has to jack COA to nearly $70k, substantially increase student body size, and cut service levels simultaneously despite a billion-dollar endowment, something is going on that you, Holly, are not hearing about.

    If you do some homework, it will be possible to start putting together preliminary numbers for what running Lehigh should cost annually, which will let you approximate the mass of the budgetary dark matter. Private-college staff and faculty salaries don’t have a tremendous range regionally, especially when no hospitals are involved. There are a finite number of buildings of known age, size, condition. There’s only so much acreage to landscape, only so many dining halls and dormitories to run.

    When you’ve got your approximations, you can go back to Johnson, who will punt to upper admin levels, and then you can run stories about the stonewalling about the budget and the apparent mystery revenue overage, and then start examining the various explanations you get. “We don’t owe you answers” smells a little off when the hand is out for $67k. I think they owe you answers. In ledger form.

  3. @Holly and @Brown and White, I’d be curious to see the actual budget along with this article. There was nothing I read here that made me say to myself “oh, that increase is justified”. Even the small merit my son gets (yes, the less than 5% merit awarded) hasn’t been increased over the past 3 years. Thank God when the tuition reaches $70K in 2019/2020 we are out of there.

  4. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    Today I viewed “Sunrise on the SouthSide” that highlights the cooperation between Lehigh and city government agencies to improve South Bethlehem, improvement which has happened. A noticeable change from my student experience and later ongoing experiences is that the number of buildings and support staff (and probably teaching staff) seems to have expanded greatly. At one time the Alumni Memorial (AM) contained all the administration, now that is not true. Not long ago I wrote a donation check in the AM but last year I wrote a check several blocks southward in a building adjoining the location of the former Reading Company tracks and near the greenway on the former right of way.

    I am sure current tuition is relatively higher, taking inflation into account, because of Lehigh’s community involvement and increased services to students, even with student complaints for inadequate service and service providers.

    Coaches for athletic teams, except for football and wrestling did dual duty or more for varsity and Freshman teams. My freshman baseball coach also was the head coach for soccer and swimming. Assistant coaches were not as numerous then as now. I imagine that the pay was relatively lower then. No women’s athletics then either. The experience today is enhanced but the cost is higher.

    With engineering projects, you can accomplish just about anything you want to do however often you can’t win the economic or political argument to do so. “Although Lehigh’s need-analysis and packaging policies are committed to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated need, Mertz said some families struggle because Lehigh does not have all the resources to provide exactly what everyone needs.” Seems like Lehigh is faced with similar constraints.

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