You are here: American University Board of Trustees March 1, 2022 Memo

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Memorandum March 1, 2022

AU Community
Marc N. Duber, Chair, Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees February 2022 Meeting Summary and Budget Update for Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024

Following the university’s health and safety protocols, the Board of Trustees met on February 24-25 in person for the first time in two years. It was a welcome opportunity to reconnect with our campus representatives, fellow trustees, and university leaders and see the community in action as we walked the campus and toured the Hall of Science. The February meeting advanced our strategy and critical priorities that support our community and the unique AU experience.

We opened the meeting with a moment of silence for former trustee Arthur Rothkopf, who sadly passed away in February. Arthur served on the AU board from 2006 to 2021 and chaired the Academic Affairs Committee for several years. He was president of Lafayette College from 1993 to 2005 and served as US Deputy Secretary of Transportation. Arthur was a valued colleague and a dear friend to the trustees and the entire AU community. Our thoughts are with Arthur’s family.

President Burwell noted several recent highlights, including the ongoing success of the Change Can’t Wait campaign and meeting our annual research funding goal in the first half of the year.

One of the primary business items for this meeting was considering the first part of the university’s budget for fiscal years (FY) 2023 and 2024, which includes financial aid, tuition, housing and meal plan costs, and mandatory student fees. Creating the two-year budget involves extensive input and collaboration from our community, including the University Budget Committee; forums with students, faculty, and staff; submissions from each of our schools, colleges, and departments; and review of the proposed budget by the Finance Committee and the full Board of Trustees, including the faculty and student trustees. Our budget approach considers many factors, including our commitment to affordability; the understandable importance of cost to our students and families; critical investments in our people and our campus; and strategic priorities such as financial aid, research, student thriving, and technology infrastructure.

For the FY23–24 budget cycle, we are taking a two-part approach to provide timely information to our community, effectively manage the ongoing COVID impacts on the budget, and update pertinent sections of the budget with the latest information. Below you will find the key budget outcomes from this meeting, including the financial aid and tuition increases, with further details available in a fact sheet on the university budget website. Other components of the budget will be reviewed during the April trustees meeting.

Financial Aid: Supporting the financial needs of our students is a top university priority, reflected in our increased investments in financial aid. The total institutional financial aid budget will increase by $5 million each year. The average amount of financial aid available per student will increase by $1,400 (or 9 percent) in FY23.

Tuition: We know that tuition levels and affordability are critical to our students and families and these concerns are central to our decision-making. Over the past two years, as university operating costs significantly increased with inflation and COVID health and safety needs, we provided a 10 percent tuition discount in FY21 to support our community during the pandemic-driven economic disruption and then had no tuition increase in FY22. The board heard vital input on this topic from our student representatives throughout the meeting, and we will continue the dialogue about affordability moving forward.

For FY23 and FY24, undergraduate tuition will increase by 5 percent per year. The increase directly supports our ability to expand institutional financial aid. Graduate tuition will increase by 3 percent per year. AU’s per credit hour graduate tuition rates will remain lower than many of our competitors, including other DC universities, based on currently published information. WCL tuition will increase by 3.5 percent per year.

Housing, Meal Plans, and Student Fees: We are committed to providing housing, dining, and student activities that support student thriving. As these costs are part of the overall financial commitment that students and families make, we worked to determine moderate increases in housing and dining that support continued quality and ongoing enhancements.

Undergraduate on-campus housing costs will increase by 3 percent in FY23 and 4.5 percent in FY24. The increases will support renovations and improvements in our residence halls, including planned updates in Leonard Hall in 2023. Meal plan options will increase by 5 percent in each year; student activity fees will remain at pre-COVID levels for both FY23 and FY24; and all other mandatory fees remain at FY22 levels.

The total undergraduate price of attendance (tuition, housing, meal plan, fees) will increase by approximately $3,100 next year, a 4.7 percent increase from this year’s total cost. Our overall cost remains lower than our competitor institutions. Many universities did not offer discounts in FY21 and most continued to increase tuition in FY22, a key difference from AU and our commitment to affordability. The University Budget Office will publish the updated tuition schedule in the coming days.

Additionally, we are not immune from broader economic pressures. Last year, inflation rose by the largest amount in 40 years. The university continues to face rapidly increasing costs in areas that directly affect our operations and the AU experience, including energy, food, and health insurance costs. These economic headwinds are in addition to the $100 million in lost revenue the university experienced due to COVID and the ongoing spending on health and safety measures such as our on-campus testing services, which are free to all AU community members.

Looking ahead to the second phase of the budget process that we will detail further in April, we are working on updates to our compensation and merit models to reward strong performance and support our faculty and staff. We know inflation and other economic pressures are creating challenges for our people. Our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to safeguard our community, support our students, and advance our mission. Additionally, we will continue to invest in our priorities as we further implement the Changemakers for a Changing World strategy.

On behalf of the trustees, I want to thank the University Budget Committee and its faculty, student, and staff representatives, who worked diligently to help structure a budget that is strategic and targeted. I also want to thank our new CFO Bronté Burleigh-Jones—who took on this challenge since her first day at AU last October—and our Provost Peter Starr, for their expert leadership of our budget process.

In the remainder of the meeting, we heard an update from Vice President Seth Grossman about the ongoing implementation of the Changemakers for a Changing World strategy and the intended focus as we move forward with the plan. The Year 3 Progress Report will be published in the coming days, and I encourage you to review the outstanding work across the university that has advanced our research, learning, and community.

We also approved the largest capital investment in student thriving in our history for construction of the Center for Athletic Performance (CAP) and the renovation of the Sports Center Annex and the second and third floors of Mary Graydon Center. Combined, these new and updated facilities will create a Student Thriving Center that will support the many wellness, academic, social, athletic, and emotional needs and opportunities that are so important to our students. While planning for this project has many stages still to come, this is an important step in our work to enhance student thriving and the ongoing transformation of our campus.

Finally, I am honored to share that Jack Cassell was named as chair emeritus in appreciation of his service to the university. American University’s story cannot be told without Jack and the Cassell family, from Jack’s father Stafford “Pop” Cassell’s enormous contributions to AU to Jack’s long service on the board and Cassell Hall, which is now home to many students. Jack’s tenure as chair from 2015 to 2019 was transformative, including the appointment of President Burwell; the construction of East Campus and the new Tenley Campus home for the Washington College of Law; and American University becoming the first carbon neutral university in the United States. He continues to advance our mission with his leadership, philanthropy, and steadfast dedication to the AU community. On behalf of the trustees and the entire university, we thank Jack and are honored to name him as chair emeritus.

The Board of Trustees will next meet on April 8, 2022. I hope that you and your family are safe and healthy as we hopefully move into a spring where COVID transmission continues to decline and opportunities for engagement, learning, scholarship, and community continue to expand.