Jan. 31, 2008

Graduate tuition for endowed research students to drop by 10.1 percent

Tuition for Cornell's Graduate School will drop by 10.1 percent next year to $29,500 for students in research-degree programs affiliated with the endowed colleges, and it will continue to fall by about another 30 percent over the next three years. In all other research degree programs, tuition will be frozen at 2006-07 rates.

Graduate School Dean Alison G. Power said the goal is to decrease research degree tuition in all fields to reach a 2011-12 target of $20,000. Research degrees include the M.A., M.S. and Ph.D. Students in professional degree programs and professional schools are not included in this plan.

In addition, tuition will be set by field of study rather than by the current practice of setting rates based on a student's special committee chair, Power said.

In the coming academic year, the tuition changes will impact about 2,289, or 70 percent, of Cornell's research-degree graduate students. Tuition rates will fall in 45 of the 85 fields of study offering research degrees.

The tuition changes are part of a larger Graduate School effort to reduce principal investigators' costs while maintaining strong financial support for graduate students. The university will continue to pay half tuition for graduate research assistantships. When fully implemented in fiscal year 2012, the tuition cuts will save principal investigators $6,400, or nearly 40 percent, per student in the endowed colleges and $400 per student in the land-grant colleges.

"The grant environment is growing more competitive each year, and by lowering tuition we are giving Cornell faculty the ability to appoint more graduate research assistants and advance their research goals," Power said.

The changes come on the heels of a recently concluded three-year initiative to aggressively increase academic-year stipends in order to keep up with the needs of students and place Cornell at the median of other Ivy-plus institutions. Stipends grew to $19,360 in 2006-07 from $16,000 in 2004-05. For 2008-09 the academic-year stipend is set at $20,710. The university previously acted to fully fund health insurance for all Cornell-supported graduate students.

As a separate initiative, a new $3 million endowment gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will enable Cornell to increase summer stipend rates in the humanities to about $4,500, beginning summer 2009, from $3,725.

The tuition changes are in response to faculty concerns about the cost of graduate support and represent nearly two years of discussion with numerous faculty committees, the academic deans and the vice provosts, Power said. This is the first step toward addressing several issues that affect the quality and competitiveness of Cornell's graduate programs.

"This approach," said Power, "reduces the cost of supporting graduate students on grants or other restrictive resources, and it strengthens academic programs by removing any financial incentive or impact from committee-chair selection."

The Graduate School initiatives are part of the university's broader goals to enable and encourage the faculty, their students and staff to lead in preserving, discovering, transmitting and applying knowledge, creativity and critical thought; and to extend Cornell's leadership in using research and education to serve the public good.

The tuition cuts represent a significant investment on the part of Cornell and its commitment to these goals, Power said. Upon full implementation, the university will forgo more than $4.5 million in graduate tuition revenue annually.

John S. Tonello is director of communications for the Graduate School.