Chancellor Coombe Raises Tuition Again

(left) Rather than cut costs and raise fundraising revenue, Chancellor Coombe will once again raise tuition

From: DU Clarion
by Arianna Ranahosseini

President Obama's Speech last night...

"And it’s time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs – because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem."
Keeping his perfect record intact, Chancellor Coombe will once again raise tuition at the University of Denver. Tuition will be increasing for the next academic year, the Board of Trustees decided Friday. Since taking over as Chancellor in 2005 Robert Coombe has managed to raise tuition every year he has been running the school.

Last year the tuition was "only" raised 4.9% making DU one of the more expensive schools in the country. According to the Princeton Review Tuition alone was $34,596 last year not counting room, board or books.

“There will be an increase,” said Claire Brownell, assistant to the chancellor.

Although the amount has been decided, the chancellor’s office declined to say by how much.


puck swami said...

Almost every school raises tuition yearly because people will pay for a top 100 education and becuase there is not enough of an endowment to offset the tuition increases. The reality is that DU has had a record number of applicants of each year, even as the overall number of college apllicants is starting to fall.

dggoddard said...

Whenever you see a nonprofit organization raising fees, dues or tuition its a sign of mismanagement. Clearly DU is not maximizing its non-tuition revenue potential and its cost structure is also out of wack.

Get rid of under-performing departments, professors and administrators. Beef up the fundraising by appealing and listening to alumni. Bring back the Freakin' mascot to prove that you "get it." Finally listen to the students.

The one this I hear everytime I go back to Denver is how out of touch the leadership is with the students. They ask for input and then don't listen or act on the suggestions.

We have a great university within or grasp, but its not adapting to the 21st century quickly enough.

The mascot controversy tells me all I need to know about DU on a micro-level. Bureaucracy is embedded at DU and that needs to change in this marketplace. Coombe & his cronies need to put DU & the students first.

Anonymous said...

Coombe should spend less time fighting the Boone movement and more time raising money!

Aluuum said...

D.G. You can't get rid of under performing professors. They belong to the strongest union known to mankind-"tenured professorship". Yes, even stronger than the United Auto Workers. Once tenured professors can coast for the rest of their teaching career. It's a great racket that i found out about much too late to try to join.

Amy said...

If DU is in such desperate need of money why have I seen 3 or 4 construction projects around the school this past year? I understand the economy and probably DU's finances are probably not in the greatest shape but by hiking up tuition again DU is excluding students who are interested in the university that may not have the means to pay an even higher tuition. If DU is interested in diversity (both cultural and socio-economic wise) they can't afford to keep spending their money unwisely and make students pay more tuition.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind tuition raises, but I think two things would be appropriate:

(1) changes no more than the rate of inflation

(2) changes affecting incoming students, whereas returning students continue to enjoy the tuition rate for the duration of their degree program

That seems reasonable, right?

puck swami said...

DU is interested in diversity, but they are much more interested in remaining financially solvent. When you don't have a huge endowment and fund raising, state funding or major research funding, tuition is the primary means of revenue, which in DU's case (in 2008) was 67 percent of all revenues. The other money comes from auxiliary operations accounting for 12 percent,gifts and endowment distribution providing 7 percent, grants and contracts constituting
6 percent, and miscellaneous other sources counting for 8 percent.

In a free market, top 100 colleges like DU charge what the market will bear, and top colleges raise the price every year because there are more than enough rich people who will pay the price - according to the laws of supply and demand.

If enrollment starts to fall , you might see some pressure to reduce the price, but right now, there are enough people willing to pay for it, and the rich people who are paying full price are the ones who subsidize the less rich students. DU does studies on price elasticity and they know exactly where the fault lines are. Coombe may be a faculty bureaucrat and he clearly misses some opportunties for licensing revnue, but overall, the numbers people around him are pretty sharp where it comes to maximizing tuition income. The 1980s days of DU being clueless about money are over. Dan Ritchie was able to deliver a product that people are willing to pay a premium price to get, and Coombe is just riding the wave.

vizoroo said...

Coombe needs to stop riding the wave and actual steer the ship. Richie sas businessman who knew how to raise funds and willing to invest his own resources. Coombe has been more on the academic side, and doesn't have the pizazz.

Anonymous said...

Well put, Mr. Swami

Tim in Los Angeles said...

This is not a defense of a tuition hike - just some info...
I serve on the undergraduate admissions council and represent DU at a couple college fairs each school year. Here are a couple facts about DU - more than 70 percent of the student body receives some form of financial aid. The average amount is more than $20,000.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about undergrad, but I believe the grad programs at DU are ridiculously overpriced. I was looking at the MBA at Daniels College earlier this year, and the price tag is around 80 grand (just tuition and fees). And the program is not even a top 50 program, at least if you believe the rankings. DU is extremely close to pricing itself out of the market, at least when it comes to grad programs, in my opinion.

dggoddard said...

High Tuition Rates leads to higher dropout rates. DU is then forced to accept larger Freshmen classes to cover the expected dropouts.

Consequently they are forced to dip further down the applicant pool to fill larger Freshmen classes.

Long and the short of it, build the endowment, keep tuition rates under control & quit screwing over the parents & students.

When I attended DU in the mid-Eighies four years tuition cost the same as a Cadallic at the time. Today it costs about the price of a house in the suburbs.

Coombe and the Board of Trustees should be embarrassed at continually raising rates in this economy. Saddling our graduates with debt is not the way to build our young alumni loyalty.

Rather than see DU bragging about how much electricity they are going to save 50 years from now, I'd like to see a five year plan to LOWER tuition over the next five years in real and inflation adjusted terms.

Tie Coombe's pay packet and bonuses to lower tuition rates and higher matriculation rates of four year students.

Anonymous said...

If the administration deems it necessary to increase tuition costs for next year, the least they can do is announce what the new pricetag is. That way those of us who can hardly "afford" this education as-is can explore other options like transferring before we run out of time to submit applications.

dggoddard said...

If you are a DU Freshman & Chancellor Coombe continues to raise tuition 5% a year, its going to cost you $5,500 extra over the next three years.

If someone was going to rake me over the coals for 5 grand, I'd get off my ass and march down to his office and give him the business.

But that's just me. :-)

Alumnus said...

I love hearing news about this because it continues to remind me of the money-hungry school I somehow decided to attend.

Coombe was smart to swindle students this time around, though. Unlike the UC school system with its one-time hike from hell, he'll just boil the frogs slowly until they graduate and don't realize that 32% hike actually happened.

Speaking to some of the comments on here, I love revisiting the DU area. Students are going broke left and right while low and behold a fucking copper-plated parking garage sits on every corner not unlike Starbucks. Great management Coombe! Looks like the Fed is your calling!

I feel like I should be giving money to CU instead of DU. At least that school still maintains a level of dignity without raping and pillaging its students left and right. Word of mouth travels quickly Coombe...

Anonymous said...

fuck you coombe.

Anonymous said...

If DU is in such desperate need of money why have I seen 3 or 4 construction projects around the school this past year?

I also wondered about this and found out after a little digging that unfortunately it is the inflated egos of the donors that dictates that their contribution go towards the building of an edifice bearing their name. The money has to be specifically used for this purpose or DU will forfeit the funding.

puck Swami said...

Big donors like to be very specific when they are forking out millions of dollars. Very few donors give a university millions and say "do what you want with it." If that were the case, DU would put most of the money into programs and scholarships, not buildings. That said, most big donors are all about the buildings, as it gives them a sense of permanent legacy.

Given the choice of buildings or not, you take the buildings.

Amy said...

I'll be going to the Chancellor lunch in February....I should really ask him about the tuition hike.

dggoddard said...

Yeah you should.

But phase the question "60 Minutes Style;" "Isn't a tuition hike a sign a poor management?" :-)

puck swami said...


Business 101 here - put yourself in the Board of Trustees shoes:

As long as there are enough qualified customers who continue to buy at the price you want them to pay, what incentive is there to drop your price?

DU doesn't want more volume of students - they are maxed out right now, with record numbers of qualified applicants at current prices. All of their competitors hike their prices annually, too. The prevailing reality is that higher prices have not yet deterred qualified kids from coming to DU. In fact, it's the opposite. The more it costs, the more applicants DU gets. In private education, lot of rich people do equate price tag with prestige and gladly pay the bill.

Everyone would like college to cost less. But until people start voting with their feet in big numbers, the colleges are going to keep on raising the price.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Coombe is being a "situational" chancellor and creating the perception of fairness by only raising tuition a little bit each year. Keeps tempers from getting out of control during the year. However, it does not uphold the integrity of being a chancellor. He needs to make his decisions free of this bias and attention to market realities and needs to consistently make his decisions based solely on the rule book that all chancellors are supposed to follow.

dggoddard said...

We all know that colleges play games with Tuition. DU charges $40,000+ per year, but hands out $10,000 "scholarships" like its candy.

The last industry that used this strategy were the US auto companies ($7,000 rebates or 0% Interest). Whoops, that didn't turn out too well.

As Alums its in our best interests to keep Tuition down. Alums send their children to DU, refer friends to DU and will have to bail out the school if Coombe screws things up. We're in for the long term.

Swami is wrong about one thing. This year DU has a record Freshman class, but had to take kids with lower scores to make the number.

Doesn't mean that the Freshman won't be great students or successful alumni, but DU's dream of being the "Harvard of West" will take a hit.

Tim in Los Angeles said...

Actually, average SAT and ACT scores of incoming freshmen went up again in 2009.
Here are the published numbers for the class that entered Fall, 2009:
These numbers are for the "middle 50%"
SAT - 1130-1300
SAT CR - 550-650
SAT Math - 560-670
ACT Composite - 25-30
GPA - 3.47 - 4.0

dggoddard said...

Thanks Tim for the correction. That data conflicts with what I was told be several students. So I stand corrected.

That being said "The middle 50%" is hardly a raw number and could be manipulated so that perhaps both of our info is correct.

It would be great if someone in DU admissions would come on here and set the record straight.

Of course it would also be great for Coombe's to have to face the students and answer why this tuition hike was really necessary.

Anonymous said...

You asked for it, you got it! Last year's accepted students had just over a 3.7 weighted GPA and nearly a 1240 SAT. The students that have been admitted early already are stronger than that. DU is currently up 13% in applications compared to this date last year. Many schools are down. For the first time in the school's history they have broken 12,000 freshman applications. Ten years ago we had around 4,000 applications. We expect to enroll a class of right around 1200 students this fall. Students that apply to Denver also apply to Stanford, Duke, Georgetown, etc. DU has come a long way in a short amount of time. The difficulty we face now is that we can't afford the quality of the kids that we are attracting. The endowment has to at least double to be able to offer financial assistance to those high caliber kids that need it most.

As for the tuition increase, expect an official announcement in a week or two. Remember that it was just approved last week.

As an aside - I read this blog everyday and love it! DG - you do great work. Puck Swami - you really seem to know your stuff.

dggoddard said...

That's great info. Thanks for posting.

Let's get cracking on building the Endowment Fund.

But seriously raising tuition in this economy is in extremely poor taste. Obama said as much in his speech tonight. Tuition is rising faster than wages. The least a rich school like DU should do is not raise tuition.

Tim in Los Angeles said...

Tuition, room & board for...
U of Southern California -
Tuition - $32,886
Rm/bd - 16,356

Stanford -
Tuition - $37,380
Rm/bd - 11,463

A BIG HOWEVER for Stanford - if a family earns less than 100K per year, they waive the tuition. Don't know if SC plans to do something similar.

Both schools have under grad enrollment of approximately 15,000.

Tim in Los Angeles said...

Standford under grad enrollment is 6,800
Grad schools are - 8,300


dggoddard said...

Needless to say, it appears that the President is questioning Coombes tuition hike and spend approach to building a world class university. I posted the quote below in the article.

President Obama's Speech last night...

"And it’s time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs – because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem."