It is difficult to determine whether NYU is really worth over $60,000 a year. While it boasts an impressive undergraduate employment rate and average starting salary, it also costs significantly more than most other universities. Despite tuition hikes, NYU continually receives an increasing number of applications every year. It could be that NYU is actually worth a small fortune and that students will continue to attend regardless of cost, or it could be that NYU’s tuition is reaching its breaking point where prospective students will opt for more affordable alternatives. Even if the former is true, the latter will inevitably occur if the university continues to increase its tuition at such a high rate. NYU will ultimately need to halt its tuition hikes to stay competitive with other universities.
In 2013, Business Insider ranked NYU the most expensive college in the United States based on tuition, required fees and room and board. NYU’s tuition and fees alone were about $45,000 compared to the national average of about $30,000 for private four-year colleges. The Wasserman Center for Career Development found that the mean annual salary upon graduation for the class of 2013 was $53,350, compared to the national average of $45,633. While NYU charges about 50 percent more than an average private college, salaries are only 16.9 percent higher than the average graduate.
In a November 2013 statement to WSN, NYU spokesman John Beckman said “a 10-year tuition freeze ignores financial realities.” He said increases in areas like faculty salaries and health care costs, as well as investments in scholarships, technology and student services, make tuition freezes implausible. NYU admittedly offers more than just a job — students also experience life in New York City and learn from first-class faculty. However, this does not explain the high growth in NYU’s tuition rate. Since 2002, NYU averaged an annual 4.96 percent increase in its tuition while inflation averaged only 2.77 percent. The average annual growth rate in tuition for private nonprofit four-year schools has been only 2.3 percent since 2013. Students may believe NYU is worth the extra cost now, but it is unlikely that this attitude will persist if tuition grows at its current rate. Even if financial aid increases at the same rate as tuition, as the university report says, students will be paying more every year because financial aid is only a fraction of tuition.
If NYU continues to push the tuition gap between itself and other universities, students will stop applying and opt for more affordable opportunities — a situation that law schools currently face. Law school applications have dropped dramatically since job opportunities in the field are limited. Students are not willing to bury themselves in thousands of dollars of debt without a high payoff. As a result, some law schools have lowered their tuition rates. If NYU continues on its current path, it may eventually face the same situation. The current tuition hikes are unsustainable for students in the long run and must be curbed. It is not a question of whether NYU will lessen tuition hikes — it is a matter of when.
A version of this article appeared in the Oct. 27 print edition. Email Adam Fazlibegu at [email protected]