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Johns Hopkins UniversityArts and Sciences Magazine

Bleak Economy Leads to Belt-Tightening, Limit on Tuition Increase

Amid steadily worsening national and international economic conditions, Johns Hopkins announced in late February that it would limit its tuition increase for the 2009-10 school year to 3.8 percent, the smallest percentage growth in 35 years for the university's two largest undergraduate schools.

The $1,450 increase will bring tuition to $39,150 for the more than 4,700 full-time undergraduates in the university's Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Whiting School of Engineering. The percentage increase is the smallest since the 1974-1975 academic year.

Keenly aware of added financial pressure on students and families in a time of recession, the schools have sought to minimize the tuition increase, cutting their budgets in many areas while increasing undergraduate financial aid.

"We know that these are very difficult times for ourfamilies," said James B. Knapp Dean Adam Falk, "and we have gone to enormous lengths to restrain spending and hold down tuition for next year. But one thing we will not cut back is the quality of a Johns Hopkins education. The tuition approved by the trustees ensures that we can maintain that quality."

Meanwhile, the university faces severe challenges in other budget revenue areas. Declines in investment income over the next few years, due to the stock market decline, are expected, and the state of Maryland has cut its funding for independent higher education by 15 percent this year, with cuts possible again next year. There is continued uncertainty in federal research funding and philanthropy. Like most employers, Johns Hopkins must pay increasingly costly employee health benefits and higher utility and technology costs.

In response, the university as a whole has frozen hiring and will impose a year-long salary freeze starting July 1. University executive officers, including divisional deans and vice presidents, are voluntarily reducing their compensation by 5 percenton July 1; much of the savings will be directed to undergraduate financial aid.

In addition to the university-wide pay and hiring freezes, the School of Arts and Sciences, along with other Hopkins divisions, has adopted measures such as departmental operating budget cuts, reductions in services, and the adoption of new money-saving energy conservation programs, said Falk. "The strategies we take to confront the current challenges are intended not only to help us balance next year's budget, but also to position the school for sustained strength far beyond what we expect will be a two- to three-year period of economic difficulty," he said.

The measures in the School of Arts and Sciences and across the Johns Hopkins institutions are less severe than they might have otherwise been thanks in large part to the success of the recently ended Knowledge for the World campaign. The eight-year effort raised $334 million for Arts and Sciences—about 9 percent of the university's overall campaign total of $3.74 billion.

The school's campaign created 110 undergraduate scholarships (more than $33 million in endowment), 22 graduate fellowships, and 14 endowed professorships in Arts and Sciences. The money raised in the campaign is supporting the Gilman Hall renovation and allowed for the construction of Charles Commons. (See "The $333,872,200 Impact," for more.)

Arts and Sciences' $334-million campaign total can be broken down by thirds into money raised for endowment, current-use programs and support, and capital projects. Dean Falk expressed gratitude and honor at being "part of a community of individuals so committed to the school and to the work we do to educate students and advance knowledge.

"No one is immune to the effects of the current global financial crisis, but we are fortunate to have entered this difficult period with substantial positive momentum—in large part because of the campaign," Falk said.

The university's responseto the economic crisis comes as most U.S. colleges and universities grapple with similarly challenging budget shortfalls amid declining revenues and rising costs of higher education.


graphicIllustration © Joyce Hesselberth