Notre Dame increases students’ tuition by 3.7 percent, leading to a total cost of attendance of over $64,000

The university recently announced that undergraduate tuition for the upcoming academic year will increase by 3.7 percent, to $49,685. Average room and board rates of $14,358 will bring total student charges to $64,043. The official announcement continued: “The percentage increase matches that of last year and is the lowest at Notre Dame in more than a half century.”

In a 2007 editorial for the Observer, the late Charles Rice, Professor Emeritus of Law, wrote, “In 1978 when Notre Dame first described itself as ‘A National Catholic Research University,’ [tuition, room and board (TRB)] was $5,180. If the rise in that 1978 TRB had kept pace with the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the 2007-2008 TRB would be $16,368.”

In that year, however, undergraduate tuition increased 5.4 percent, to $35,187, and average room and board rates were $9,290, for a total cost of $44,477, according to an announcement from the university in the 2007-2008 academic year.

While the percentage of increase has decreased since then, the total undergraduate tuition fee continues to rise, as seen in the recent announcement from the University, following the Board of Trustees meeting on January 29.

After explaining last year’s increased tuition by pointing to the “97 percent placement rate of graduates,” this year, University President Rev. John Jenkins, CSC, pointed to the importance of a Notre Dame education, agreeing with many economists who say “it is one of the best investments you can make in a young person.”

Continuing, he emphasized even more that “the value of a Notre Dame education is best measured not in financial terms, but in the way it enriches the lives of our graduates and helps them enrich the lives of others.”

In addition, Fr. Jenkins pointed to the Notre Dame alumni network, saying, “It is humbling and gratifying how often our graduates credit the education they received at Notre Dame and the people they came to know here with shaping them in profound and important ways for a lifetime. It is this sense of gratitude and connection that accounts for what is perhaps the most active, loyal, and passionate alumni network in the world.”

The Rover reached out to members of the economics department to hear their insight on the matter.

“The inflation rate is just under 2 percent, so a tuition hike of this level is simply keeping up with general prices,” Timothy Fuerst, Professor of Economics, told the Rover.  “Wages in sector X are linked to the price of the product produced by X and the productivity of the workers in sector X.  For wages across sectors to stay in balance, price growth plus productivity growth must be about the same across all sectors.  Academia has very little productivity growth, e.g., the number of students taught by a faculty member today (and the manner in which they are taught), has not changed much since the days of Fr. Sorin.

“Hence, the price of education must rise faster than the price of other goods to compensate for the below-normal productivity growth within academia. Overall productivity growth (for the US economy) is about 1.5 percent,” which, according to Fuerst, “would suggest that tuition should rise by about 3.5 percent.”  

Eric Sims, Associate Professor of Economics, agreed that the price increase is justified by the rise of inflation. “This year’s tuition increase is part of a continuing trend of tuition increases which outstrip overall inflation,” he said to the Rover.

Explaining this trend, Sims continued, “Part of the reason for this is simple supply and demand. Wages for highly educated (e.g. college educated) workers have been growing faster than wages for the rest of the population. This means that there is a high return for a college education, which means that the demand for a college education is high and rising.”

While Sims does not think the increase in price will hurt Notre Dame and the supply of its applicants, he believes “there is a more interesting question about whether or not tuition increases of this magnitude are sustainable for higher education as a whole. … Eventually people may decide that paying this much for college is simply not worth it.”

Johnny Ryan is a freshman living in the best dorm on campus, St. Edward’s Hall, and studying theology and philosophy. Contact him at and ask him about his yacht.