A number of liberal arts colleges across the nation are being forced to reconsider their financial models because of the increasing amount of money universities spend per student, according to a recent report from Inside Higher Ed.

Although Elon is considered one of the nation's "Best Value" institutions, it too must constantly revise its financial model in order to ensure long-term sustainability, according to Gerald Whittington, vice president of business, finance and technology.

"We rethink our financial model every year," Whittington said. "We have to constantly work at it to make it sustainable. Attracting the student body that is both highly academically qualified and as diverse as possible is a challenge for us and everyone else in higher education."

Elon's tuition is at or slightly below the national average for private higher education, Whittington said. But during the past decade, tuition at four-year, private nonprofit colleges and universities rose 28 percent, according to a report by the College Board in 2010. In order to keep Elon in its current price range, adjusting the balance between merit and need-based aid becomes necessary.

"We are always refining our financial aid mix, both merit and need-based," Whittington said. "We are trying to adjust to providing more need-based aid at Elon. In fact, our strategic plan calls on us to double need-based aid by the end of the plan in 2020. This requires a huge investment and fundraising process currently calculated at $80 million."

Elon, along with most private universities, relies on a percentage of student families who can afford to pay most of the tuition cost, Whittington said. But being able to provide aid to families from a diverse range of backgrounds is important to both the university and to the student body.

"I think it's really great that we get one of the best values for our money because it allows us to have a diverse array of people," said Whittney Levitt, a sophomore business major. "If the cost of tuition went up, we would not have such a vibrant and unique student body."

Student tuition and room and board only pays for about 80 percent of the cost of the institution, according to Whittington. The other 20 percent comes from gifts, the endowment or grants. He estimates that the average amount of money that Elon spends per student is between $44,000 and $45,000.

But Levitt has confidence that even if the cost per student increased, Elon wouldn't significantly raise the cost of tuition.

"One of the main things that attracts students to Elon is the relatively low price," she said. "So it wouldn't be in Elon's best interest to go straight for tuition when looking for a way to bring in more money.