Emerson to increase tuition, room and board for 2021-22 academic year


Photo: Jakob Menendez

Students crossing the bustling Boylston/Tremont intersection.

By Charlie McKenna

Emerson will raise undergraduate tuition as well as room and board rates by 2 percent for the fall semester, President M. Lee Pelton announced in a Thursday afternoon email.  

The tuition increase, which amounts to $1,025.28, is equivalent to the hike set in place for the 2020-21 academic year in July, and follows over a decade of steadily increasing costs at the college. The increase comes as the pandemic continues to ravage the finances of many students and their families. 

The July decision came just two weeks after administrators told faculty they were bracing for between $33 and $76 million in losses as a result of the pandemic. But, now, the college appears to have avoided a worst-case scenario with a projection of $30 million in losses during the 2021 fiscal year. 

Still, Pelton and Board of Trustees Chair Jeffrey Greenhawt cited the pandemic as a contributing factor in the decision to once again raise tuition and room and board costs. 

“The Board has worked hard to balance the ongoing budgetary impact of the viral pandemic with meeting the College’s operating and capital needs, and investing in the people and programs that sustain and advance Emerson as the nation’s premier institution of higher learning devoted to communications, the arts, and the liberal arts,” Pelton and Greenhawt wrote. 

Emerson is heavily reliant on tuition for its revenue—with 89 percent of annual revenue coming from those costs, according to publicly available college financial statements. 

The decision to raise tuition once again comes nearly a month after Emerson announced it was planning to once again hold in-person classes under its flex model—where courses are held in-person half of the time and remotely the other half.  

The tuition increase comes just two-and-a-half months before Pelton is scheduled to depart his post as President to head up the Boston Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Pelton and Greenhawt indicate in their email that Emerson will work to offset the impact of the increase for students with “demonstrated financial need and/or changing financial circumstances.” The email directs students to an “increase off-set fund,” where they can submit an appeal to the Office of Financial Aid on or after June 1 to receive additional aid to mitigate the tuition hike. 

“Next year’s tuition and fees take into account the continued investment that the College will make to ensure a safe and robust academic experience for all of our students—along with the deep recognition that many students and their families remain affected by the economic difficulties resulting from the pandemic,” Pelton and Greenhawt wrote. 

Suffolk University does not plan to increase tuition for the 2021-22 school year, President Marisa Kelly said in an October email. Boston University and Northeastern University do not appear to have announced plans. 

Correction: A previous version of this article said students had to apply for the tuition increase offset fund by June 1. The article has been updated to reflect that students should apply on or after June 1.