A closer look at Scripps tuition hikes

By Nikki Broderick ’14Staff Writer

In July 2012, President Lori Bettison-Varga informed the Scripps community of an error in reporting the average amount of debt students incur after attending Scripps College. This information, which was provided voluntarily by Scripps to the Common Data Set, underreported debt averages for Scripps graduates. The College hired O’Melveny and Myers LLP, who, in turn, hired Grant Thornton LLP to conduct an internal investigation.

The investigation found that President Bettison-Varga did not encourage any manipulation of statistics. Quite simply, Scripps failed to report loans that were not need-based, such as private or federal loans, into the cumulative debt total. Grant Thornton’s recalculation of such debt found that while the average reported cumulative debt for the Class of 2011 was $13,121, the actual cumulative debt incurred totaled $22,466.

While this false data in no way affected students’ financial aid packages, the amount of debt does raise questions of exactly how much a Scripps College education costs and the continued increase in tuition.

For the 2012-2013 academic year, the total cost for resident students at Scripps (not including any financial aid or merit based awards) comes to $57,088. Out of this total, $43,406 accounts for tuition. Joanne Coville, Vice President of Business Affairs and Treasurer at Scripps, explains, “Most of our revenue for the total budget comes from tuition—about 69%. The rest comes mostly from large chunks of money, such as grants or from our endowment.” She also explained the budget process that occurs every year in order to determine how much tuition will increase, if at all. Of Scripps’ total budget, 62% of direct spending is spent on faculty, staff and benefits, while another 14% accounts for the shared services and programs offered by the Consortium, such as Keck Science Center and CMS athletics.

Compared to the rest of the 5C’s tuition totals, Scripps comes in third. The most expensive Claremont college (disregarding room and board) is Harvey Mudd, with a tuition total of $44,149. The least expensive is Pomona at $41,120.

Claremont McKenna, Pomona, Pitzer, and Scripps do not fix tuition at the rate that students paid for their first year, meaning that tuition will most likely increase over students’ time in Claremont.

While financial aid packages are adjusted to meet any demonstrated need, most merit-based awards at Scripps do not adjust for any increases in the price of tuition. According to Coville, increases in tuition stem fromhigher salaries to faculty and staff (typically to professors who have received promotions or tenure), and, on average, tuition increases about 4% each year.

Taking this into account, a student attending Scripps can expect that tuition will increase around 16% over four years of enrollment. To take an example, a first-year student at the College can expect that by the end of her time at Scripps, tuition will jump from $43,406 to $50,350, not including room, board, and other fees. At this year’s estimate, these fees would add an additional $13,682, to create a total cost of $64,032. While the majority of Scripps’ students receive some form of financial aid or need-based loans, the estimated projected costs raise an interesting question: should college tuition have a nearly $65,000 price tag by 2016?