Cole Clark walked around Elon University’s campus on a gloomy day in January. The prospective student toured what he thought could be his future home, especially after being informed about Elon’s academics, campus life and post-graduate opportunities. 

“You couldn’t ask for a much better experience and it was on a rainy day,” Clark said. “I think that was what helped — this is on a rainy day, what could it be like if it’s sunny?” 

Cole Clark, a high school junior from Virginia, still has one year before he makes a final decision on where he'll go to college. Elon University, he said, is high on his list, but his family will continue to monitor changes like the recent tuition increase. Photo courtesy of Cole Clark. 

The high school junior from Virginia still has one year until he needs to commit to a college. He’s considering other colleges, but he knows he still needs to keep in mind future university changes — like Elon’s recent tuition increase. 

The university announced Feb. 10 that it will increase tuition, lodging and meal plans by 5.14% for the 2023-24 academic year, which will make the total cost $59,014. Indirect costs — including books, transportation and other expenses — add up to $3,500, bringing the total cost of tuition to $62,514. 

Clark’s main goal is simple. When he leaves college to enter the workforce, he wants to feel prepared. Clark said he will prioritize resources and facilities when applying to colleges, despite tuition that’s on the rise.

“With a tuition increase, the thing that comes to mind is you hoping the university will use it for its students to be able to help them out, give them the advantage in the most successful way possible,” Clark said.

Where is the money going?

Current Elon students can see the impact of their tuition dollars in areas such as the university’s health and wellness initiatives like HealthEU and the extension of TimelyCare

In a Feb. 10 interview with Elon News Network, Vice President for Finance and Administration Janet Williams said the university’s budgeting process aligns with the Boldly Elon strategic plan. 

When current juniors applied during the 2019-20 academic year, Elon’s total cost of attendance was $52,756. As seniors, they will be facing a sticker price that is $9,758 higher than it was when they applied. 

In those three years, the campus has seen additions such as opening of Innovation Quad in fall 2022 and the Inn at Elon in January 2020. The university also purchased three properties on East Haggard Avenue in early October 2022 and will break ground on the construction of a new residence hall in June. 

Williams said tuition increases support campus growth, as well as merit and need-based scholarships.

In an email to Elon News Network, Vice President for Enrollment Greg Zaiser said scholarships help students access Elon and allow recognition for academic success and involvement, though scholarships for current students will not increase. 

“Two years ago we increased the size of these awards for incoming students and these increases have to be built into the budget for each class,” Zaiser wrote. “For example, Presidential Scholarship went from $6,000 to $7,500 annually for new students. That’s an increase of $1,500 per student for approximately 15% of the FY class. This will be an annual budgetary allocation for four years until the increase is fully part of the university budget.” 

According to Zaiser, presidential, and other scholarships such as Elon Engagement, scholars and fellows are generally not endowed scholarships, instead they “are funded by the operating budget of the university.”

Aeiris Faloni, a high school student, said Elon is currently their top choice for college. Faloni hopes the surplus from the tuition increase will contribute to raising the amount of money awarded through scholarships. 

“I think for my personal interest in Elon, it would be really cool to see them have diversity-based scholarships,” Faloni said. “They have merit and need-based scholarships, but some other schools that I've looked at have had specifically leadership and diversity-related scholarships that I think could be a focus of Elon, especially since they talk about diversity so much.” 

Faloni said they and their parents anticipate a tuition increase due to inflation, but hope Elon remains focused on raising scholarships too. Faloni currently attends a private school in Maryland and said they’re privileged to not have to consider money when looking at schools.

“In my personal situation, I don't think that it would affect my decision on whether I'd be going to Elon, but that's purely because I have the opportunity to be able to make decisions with minimal financial liability if the price varies,” Faloni said.

Considering costs 

Clark’s mother, Nicole, said she enjoyed her time visiting campus during her son’s prospective student tour. While she wasn’t immediately aware of the tuition increase, Nicole believes funding future facilities at Elon would make the experience worth it for her son’s education. 

“It was just nice to see a clean, crisp campus and a campus that seems to serve the student’s needs,” Nicole said. “One of the things that I enjoyed was the fact that they showed you life beyond college. It seems like Elon prepares you for life after college. … The focus was on the students themselves to get them out of school.”

Despite her attraction to Elon, Nicole said a potential increase in tuition again before Cole enters college could potentially create concern for her and her husband as parents. 

“For us to see a campus that didn't have any deficiencies so to speak, you just wonder, ‘OK, what's going on that's causing the drive?’” Nicole said. “What's the push? What other options do we have that Elon could possibly put out there without the student body having to carry the burden directly every year.” 

Though Nicole and Cole agree Elon will be a top contender in Cole’s college search, he won’t begin applying until the fall. 

“I think it’s still a strong option on my list,” Cole said. “Yes, it’s a tuition increase, but I think some things are worth sacrificing.”