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Canisius tuition to break $30,000 for first time in five years

By Patrick Healy, Opinion Editor

Eileen Herbert, chief communications officer for Canisius College, told The Griffin that the College’s Board of Trustees recently approved an approximate 3% tuition increase for the 2022-23 school year.

She added, “The college’s sticker price will remain competitive with or below most of our regional, private school competitors.” Herbert did not disclose fees or room and board charges for 2022-23.

This tuition increase comes amid falling enrollment figures, suggesting that the College is leaning heavily on this relatively small tuition hike as a selling point to prospective students. Full-time undergraduate enrollment has decreased an average of 5% per year over the past decade but has accelerated in recent years — a 9% drop in 2020-21 preceded the most recent decline of 7%.

Inflation, which typically sits around 3%, means that keeping tuition stagnant would actually cost the college money because of rising expenses. But inflation will no doubt be more than 3% this year. The full 2021 Consumer Price Index won’t be released until January 12, 2022, but a monthly rate of 6.8% in November 2021 portends a hefty dose of inflation.

Part of that inflation, of course, can be attributed to government spending; Canisius and its students received more than $10,000,000 through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund alone over the past two years. Regardless of the reason, a mere 3% increase is actually something of a decrease, or at least a cause for gladness; Canisius’s tuition, most students’ largest expense, won’t be rising in cost like everything else is.

No word yet on next year’s tuition charges for Canisius’s “regional, private school competitors,” but current tuition charges for Niagara, St. Bonaventure, St. John Fisher and Daemen all sit at $30,000 or above. D’Youville College is just below $30,000. Comparatively, this is the first time Canisius has had tuition above $30,000 since 2017-18.

Publicly available data indicate that Canisius’s average net price, which accounts for grants and scholarship, is currently lower than those five schools. Unless the Board simultaneously approved sweeping cuts to aid, this stands to remain the case next year. I wonder if other schools' Boards of Trustees have set tuition: if not, this stands as a wake-up call to them.

Vice President for Enrollment Management Dr. Danielle Ianni reportedly told the Board that, “as of December 3, applications were up by 19 percent compared to the prior year, or 306 applications, totaling 1,910 applications.” She expressed optimism about the number of applications and the fact that Canisius’s percentage increase exceeds the national average. Graduate enrollment looks like it will meet its goal too.

I’m glad for the good news on the enrollment front. There are still months to go, but based on past acceptance and admission rates (typically between 75-80% and 15-20%, respectively), that’s at least 300 students in the incoming freshman class with months left to go in the admission process. The tuition news might help boost the class even more.

Of course, this also comes during a potentially damaging lawsuit — to both our funds and our reputation. The lawsuit Astiz et al v. Canisius College is currently undergoing a contentious motion by the plaintiffs (four fired Canisius faculty members) to revise their case with information found in discovery. The former faculty’s case looks pretty good from my angle, though their lawyers somehow forgot to include publicly available tax data in their original complaint. If the faculty win, the school might be on the hook for millions of dollars and lots of public scrutiny about our administration.

Hopefully students will just see the sticker price and not the negative publicity. I kind of doubt they’ll even know about the lawsuit — it’s a good thing nobody reads newspapers anymore! If only my Canisius education could transform me, not just into a leader, but into a fly on the wall during the Board meetings. I’ve reached out to Undergraduate Student Association President Alyssa Deacon about whether she exercised her ex officio rights to attend the mid-December Board meetings, but haven’t heard back.

This is the capstone to President Hurley’s 2017 “Excellence Within Reach” program, which decreased tuition by nearly $8,000 and cut room and board costs by about $2,000. Though the Board of Trustees officially sets the tuition, it is the president who is responsible for setting and executing a vision for the college. Their decisions affect the possible range of tuition, and that the Board felt comfortable setting it below our competitors indicates confidence in that vision. The Board clearly expects the new president to work within rather limited means.

Overall, tuition’s mere 2% increase from President Hurley’s first year in office to the first of his successor is an accomplishment, though it has arguably come at the expense of, as we saw last year, many employees. The war over faculty will rage on in court, this newspaper’s pages, and all over campus, but Hurley can claim a victory in this battle.

It can’t be a fun or laid back time to be a Trustee, what with the lawsuit, inflation and a presidential search, but they seemed to have made the right call with this one. Unless they only chose 3% because, well, that’s a nice number and is roughly equivalent to past years. Maybe I’m thinking about it more than they did.

What’s the expression? Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then? Even if it was an accident, count this one as a bigger upset than Saturday’s defeat of UB in basketball. And like that amazing win could for Canisius basketball recruitment, the tuition decision might help future enrollment. It’s a good week for Griffs.

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