Fast Facts: Tuition Rates

26 11 2013

To go with your Thanksgiving meals, here’s some food for thought, courtesy of the university factbook.

Tuition goes up in fits and starts. Consider the graph for the endowed colleges shown below.


In 1973, tuition and fees added up to about $3,180, a 6% increase over the previous year. According to the inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is equivalent to about $16,727 dollars today. Put into further perspective, that was about the same price as a brand-new Chevy Chevelle Laguna Colonnade sedan. You know it’s a great car when it has that many names. Median household income was $9,226, so tuition was about 34.5% of the mean household’s annual income.

If the annual tuition hikes seem a bit high in the 1970s and early 1980s, it’s for good reason – this was a period known for stagflation, where the economy grew at anemic rates (if it all), while inflation continued to rise near 10% yearly. Fall 1981 was particularly shocking, with a 19.5% increase in tuition and fees over the previous academic year, from $5,860 to $7,000. Still, compared to today, that BLS calculator says $7,000 in 1981 has about as much buying power as $17,985 dollars today. Put another way, that was about 36.7% of annual household income in 1981 ($19,074). Or to illustrate the advances in computers, a top of the line IBM 5150 PC cost about $6k, with color graphics and a 256kb hard drive.

Since 1983, there have been no annual increases greater than 10%. By 1993, tuition and fees went up a relatively modest 5.5% to $18,226. With the exception of the 5.5% increase in Fall 2007, all other years in the two decades since have been less than 5.5%, falling somewhere between 4% and the low 5’s. Fall 2009 is the lowest at 4%, likely an effect of the Great Recession. Inflation-adjusted, tuition cost about $29,458 in 2013 dollars. Keeping with the theme, household income was $30,210 in 1993, or about 60.33% of annual household income. So through the 80s and early 90s, we’re starting to see this rapid relative rise in tuition vs. income, even though the annual increases have dropped off as inflation lessened.

Fast forward ten more years to 2003. The mean household annual income was $42,560. Knowing my own family’s finances, we were about a little below that average. Tuition in 2003 had increased 5% over the previous year to $28,754, or 67.6% of mean household annual income. Or to a working-class family like mine, it meant being told at a young age that if you didn’t get scholarships, you weren’t going to college.

The most recent estimate for mean household annual income is about $51,017. Tuition at an endowed college is $45,358 this year, a 4.5% increase over 2012. 88.9% of the mean household’s income in a year. There’s a reason why college debt gets so much attention these days.

For the purpose of being all-encompassing, in-state tuition for the contract colleges, followed by non-resident tuition at those schools, is included below:



Year   Tuition (NYS/non-res)  nys:non-res   MHAI         Tuition as % of MHAI

1973   $1,350/2,100                  0.642              $9,226           14.6%/22.8%

1981   $2,800/4,700                 0.596              $19,074         14.7%/24.6%

1993   $7,426/14,106                0.526              $30,210         24.6%/46.7%

2003  $14,624/25,924             0.564              $42,560         34.4%/60.9%

2013   $29,218/45,358             0.644              $51,017          57.3%/88.9%

Note that 1981 is a little misleading, as in-state tuition was jacked up $500 dollars for Fall 1982. Everything moves slower in state government. Except the tuition hikes themselves, those seem to be increasing at a pretty good clip.

Now, all of this information sounds pretty scary, and sticker shock certainly is. But the mean household income would get a full ride to Cornell on grants and scholarships. I was fortunate enough that Cornell’s revised program kicked in before my junior year, and even before that, my contributions were very modest. My debt load is small enough that it will be paid off by next spring. Cornell enabled a working class kid like me to go to a top college. For that I am thankful. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

News Tidbits 11/17/13: Hotels and Hazing

18 11 2013


After a lull in new development proposals in the city of gorges, something new has come to the table.  Down in big box land, another hotel seeks to join the ten-year old Hampton Inn (66 rooms) and the recently-completed Fairfield Inn (106 rooms). According to Jason over at Ithaca Builds, the proposed “All Suites Hotel” at 371 Elmira Road calls for a 4-story, 54′ tall, 11,769 sq ft hotel with approximately 76 rooms, proposed for the site of a vacant office building and an auto body shop (both of which would be demolished). Looking at the aerial below, its proximity to the new Fairfield (upper right) is quite clear. Planning board agenda here, map of site here, site plans here, elevations/renderings here.


Although no brand is stated in the proposal, I suspect it might be a part of the Holiday Inn Express brand owned by Intercontinental Hotels Group. For one, the hotel is in the 60-80 room range as recently-built HIE hotels (see the recently-opened 74-room Holiday Inn Express in Cortland for example).  Reason number two, Intercontinental Hotels Group will lose its Ithaca presence once the license with the downtown property expires in January, and the Ithaca hotel market is generally strong enough that they might wish to maintain a slice of the hospitality market.


Although it’s pretty standard chain hotel fare, architectural work is being handled by Buffalo-based Silvestri Architects. Additional work will be undertaken by Optima Design and Engineering, also out of Buffalo (no surprise, the developer’s LLC also has a Buffalo address). Both organizations have previous experience with chain hotel construction and design.

Apart from that, other proposals in the city include a small amount of infill at the Statler Hotel, a two-family home on West Hill, and a 10,384 sq ft commercial building on Cherry Street. Ithaca Builds notes the Cherry Street proposal is a Crossfit Gym, to be housed in a rather industrial-looking 1-story structure with a pitched roof.

In other news, Cornell has beaten a proverbial hornet’s nest with a stick. The Cornell Sun published an article last Friday that the men’s lacrosse coach would be dismissed from his position.  The decision is widely suspected to be related to the suspension of the Lacrosse team from fall exhibition games after a hazing incident where allegedly freshman were forced to chug beer by senior team members. Unlike fraternities, where one merely has to wait before some chapter does something stupid, the lacrosse team is respected by its peers and a moneymaker for the university, so this seems unreasonably harsh. Given the commentary on the article, Cornell’s heavy-handed approach appears to have its share of critics. As a personal opinion, I feel the lacrosse team is being made an example of, to scare the other teams into playing nice. In the long run, I don’t think there will be much uproar until the university starts to go after large student groups outside the Greek system and athletics.  The more students who feel Cornell breathing down their necks, the more they’ll raise a hue and cry.

UPDATE 1/30/14: And it is in fact a Holiday Inn Express. I’m giving myself a gold star.

Fast Facts: Academic Staff and Faculty Trends

10 11 2013


In the entry, faculty are defined as “part-time, clinical and acting assistant, associate and full professors”, while academic staff are defined as “instructors, lecturers, senior lecturers, teaching associates, research and senior research associates, research scientists and principal research scientists, extension and senior extension associates, librarians, associate librarians, senior assistant librarians, assistant librarians and archivists”. All data is taken from the Cornell University Factbook:

Total Aca Staff

Fact number one – the number of academic staff has decreased, from 2,728 in 2001 to 2,660 in 2012. The number peaked at about 2,841 in Fall 2008, and has largely declined since then, as the Great Recession took its toll. CALS and Engineering appear to still be declining, with staff reductions near 10% in the past five years alone (704 to 654, and 306 to 280 respectively).  AAP has lost 14 positions in the same span, reducing academic staff from 69 to 55. Some schools, like the Hotel School and Law School, never really saw declines, while others such as HuMec and Arts & Sciences have started to rebound.

Faculty and Aca Staff

Let’s break down these numbers a little more, into faculty and academic professionals. Faculty numbers went from 1551 in 2001, to 1647 in Fall 2007 (its peak), to 1587 in Fall 2012. Academic staff went from 1,177 in 2001, to a peak of 1,219 in Fall 2005 (and a secondary peak of 1,208 in Fall 2008), and had decreased to 1,073 in Fall 2012. Let’s note that the student population has increased substantially since 2001, especially among the graduate student and professional student sub-groups.

Faculty Percentages

Overall, the faculty proportions haven’t changed too much. Slightly less assistant and full professors, and slightly more associate professors. It has been noted 47 percent of professors are over age 55, and 15 percent over age 65. Cornell had set a goal in Fall 2011 to bring in new blood and expand its faculty base by hiring 100 new faculty per year, but given these numbers, I’m doubtful that is occurring.

Aca Staff Percentages

With academic staff, the big decrease has been with those working in extension (Cornell Cooperative Extension). Some of these cuts were publicized, like the 17 staff that were laid off from ILR Extension in February 2009 (apparently, the Sun link no longer works since their website had to be rebuilt). Cornell Cooperative Extension comprises university outreach and research conducted as part of the university’s land-grant commitment to the state, mostly in agricultural concerns and community programs.

Aca Staff vs. Time

The drop in extension is illustrated further here. In 2001, it had 290 staff. In 2012, 0nly 213. The research staff went from 410 to 392 in the same span (note that there 454 researchers in fall 2008), and 126 to 110 librarian staff. Academic instruction staff increased from 351 to 358. Note that academic instruction staff does not include post-docs, as they are considered temporary employees of the university. Off-hand, given the salaries posted on sites like Glassdoor, I wonder if lower-cost lecturers and teaching associates are being hired in place of professors, and if the university has become more dependent on the cheap labor provided by grad students as their budget has tightened.

The Keyword Bar XX

2 11 2013

1. “pearl buck house ithaca” (10-27-2013)

That’s a bit of a tricky question. Pearl S. Buck, Nobel-winning author of “The Good Earth”, lived in Ithaca in 1924-1925 (she completed her M.A. at Cornell in 1925). Her first husband, John Lossing Buck, did a BS at Cornell in ag economics in 1914, and an MS in the same subject that was completed in 1925, and finally, a PhD in 1933. It would appear, based off a Cornell Sun article, that she once again lived in Ithaca from about summer 1932-1933. So most likely, one looking for the house she lived in would be looking for two different places in the Ithaca, the one from the mid-1920s when she was doing her degree, and the second in the early 1930s, when her increasingly-distant husband was completing his PhD. Not sure which time time this pamphlet refers to, but at least some of that time appears to have been spent in Forest Home.

2. “carl sagan’s secret tunnel” (10-27-2013)

One of the stories that enhances Carl Sagan’s mystique is that he somehow had a tunnel from his house to campus. That’s not feasible (there’s a gorge in the way), and perhaps some of its inspiration came from Ezra Cornell’s utility tunnel across the gorge from Sagan’s property at 900 Stewart Avenue. It seems he just preferred to you the back trails along the gorge to walk to his office and back.

3. “cornell prelims” (11-1-2013)

A word fairly unique in its use at the university, prelim is shorthand for “preliminary examination“, and in American usage, are normally applied as a synonym for the qualifying exam one takes to become a PhD candidate. The use of the term at Cornell, as a substitute to describe all non-midterm and final exams, dates back at least to the early 1900s.

4. “does cornell cals accept mostly ny state students?” (10-23-2013)

Cornell in general has about 29 to 30 percent of its freshman class arrive to its door from elsewhere in New York state. This SUNY 2013-2014 guidebook seems to peg CALS’s NYS enrollment proportion at 47 percent. I’ve had it understood that the difference in proportion was more because of the state tutition discount than it being “easier”, but it does look like the SAT scores in the contract schools in the 2013-2014 guidebook are lower than the university average. Speaking strictly from a numbers standpoint. I have no interest in humoring Ann Coulter’s wet dreams.

5. “where was zinck’s, ithaca, ny” (10-21-2013)

Zinck’s, or at least the Zinck’s referred to in “Give My Regards to Davy”, refers to “The Hotel Brunswick” lager beer saloon and restaurant that Theodore Zinck ran from about 1880 until his suicide in 1903. Zinck’s was located in the old Ithaca Hotel at 108-110 North Aurora Street; the building was torn down in the late 1960s, a victim of urban renewal.