Students react to Northeastern changes in tuition, financial aid


Deanna Schwartz

The university has increased tuition at an average annual rate of 4.3 percent from 2015 to 2019. During the same period, room and board charges grew at an average annual rate of 3.5 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Jessica Silverman, deputy campus editor

In a recent News@Northeastern article, the university revealed its plans to provide $355 million in financial aid to students. The university also announced an increase in tuition and room and board costs for the upcoming academic year.

Students have expressed frustration with administration regarding the tuition increase. However, the university stated that this financial aid investment is more ambitious than in the past.

“The aid investment represents an increase of more than 151 percent since 2006. In addition to $305 million slated for undergraduate students, the university is committing $50 million in aid for graduate students,” the article said.

According to a financial statement published by the university in June, 63 percent of Northeastern students received some form of financial aid through the university during the 2018-19 academic year. This may be in the form of grants, loans or work opportunities.

In 2019, financial assistance to students totaled more than $600 million with $340 million provided by the university and the rest attributed to outside sources. The total amount of financial assistance to students for the fall 2020 academic year has yet to be released.

Northeastern also plans on increasing tuition and room and board costs for students, which it has done every year.

“Undergraduate tuition for the 2020-21 academic year will be $54,360, an increase of 3.7 percent, a slightly lower increase by percentage compared to 2019,” the article said. “The cost of room and board has risen by 3.2 percent, to $17,480.”

According to the financial statement, the university has increased tuition at an average annual rate of 4.3 percent from 2015 to 2019. During the same period, room and board charges grew at an average annual rate of 3.5 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Northeastern spokesperson Shannon Nargi said the decision to raise tuition is very similar to what universities across the country are doing.

“The university received 64,400 applications for the fall freshman class. The demand for a Northeastern education is off the charts. This year’s tuition increase is very much along the lines of what many other institutions have announced,” Nargi wrote in an email to The News.

However, some students are unsure why the university is planning on raising tuition when their learning experiences will be drastically different with the NUflex model, especially for classes that require in-person components.

“Why are they not decreasing tuition if it’s not going to be the same experience at all?” said Ava DiPietro, rising third-year computer science and design major. “It’s going to be a lesser experience for a lot of design students, people who really rely on doing stuff in person.”

Many student activist groups have fought for a reduction in tuition costs due to the switch to the hybrid learning model. The most prominent of these groups includes the coalition of student organizations known as the Coalition for Affordability, Responsibility and Equity, or NU CARE. This group consists of students from the Northeastern Young Democratic Socialists of America, Progressive Student Alliance, Northeastern College Democrats, Sunrise Northeastern, Northeastern for Biden, the Interdisciplinary Women’s Council and the Husky Environmental Action Team.

Jordan Buchman, the chair of Northeastern Young Democratic Socialists of America, or YDSA, also believes that Northeastern should not be raising tuition due to the inferior learning experience that comes with online classes.

“We’re very opposed to this,” said Buchman, a rising third-year computer science major. “The fact that they’re not only raising tuition during this pandemic, but also even continuing to charge the same tuition for classes that will not have the same educational experience.”

NU YDSA, along with other member organizations of NU CARE, recently met over the phone with Northeastern administrators to discuss their perspective on this issue.

Buchman said the university was not receptive to their points and that they viewed the situation very differently. NU CARE met with Dean of Cultural and Spiritual Life Bob Jose, Associate Dean for Student Support Chong Kim-Wong and Director of the Center for Student Involvement Jason Nolen-Doerr.

“Another way I think the university shows that they don’t care about students is that the people they had us meet with recently were not actually related to the reopening plan. They really had no power over the reopening plan,” Buchman said. “I think if the university actually wants to engage with students and make sure students are on the same page as the university, they would have us meet with someone like [Chancellor] Ken Henderson, who is in charge of the university’s reopening plan, rather than administrators who had nothing to do with it.”

NU CARE is encouraging students to defer their enrollment for the fall as a way to protest the tuition increase.

“It’s the right thing to do to get the university to listen, but also because we believe Northeastern won’t be able to provide a safe experience for everyone in the fall,” Buchman said.

Students have also criticized the university for how the tuition increase was announced.

“It seemed as though [Northeastern] wanted to bury the tuition increase [in the article],” rising fourth-year journalism and political science major Milton Posner said. “The aid increase is a definite positive, but it seemed as though it was strategically deployed to hide the fact that they’re doing a tuition increase in the middle of a pandemic.”

Posner is sympathetic to the challenges that are involved in running the university during difficult times, but believes the university could have handled the announcement in a much better way.

“I think if you’re going to increase tuition in the middle of a pandemic, which they acknowledge is a time of great economic uncertainty, you need to explain exactly why you’re doing it,” Posner said. “There has to be a better reason than: ‘it’s not as much as last year.’”