By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
With the cost of attending Baylor full time set to yet again increase for the upcoming academic year, this time to nearly $43,000, it’s worth noting that Baylor hasn’t always been this expensive. Baylor students today pay substantially more to attend than students did in the ’90s, and in some cases, this difference can be felt across generations.
Debbie Gerik graduated from Baylor with a degree in elementary education in December 1999. Now her daughter, Kaitlyn, attends Baylor and majors in psychology. Both are from Robinson.
Data on tuition, housing and other expenses is available through yearly Baylor Trends reports. These reports are compiled by Baylor’s Office of Institutional Research and Testing and are publicly available in pdf form through the Institutional Research and Testing section of the Baylor website. Each report spans a seven-year segment preceding its publication. The most recent available report covers fall 2012 through fall 2018, and the earliest spans fall 1991 through fall 1998.
During the ’90s, tuition increased from $185 per hour for fall 1991 to $355 per hour for fall 2000. While year-by-year tuition increases fluctuated, they were generally slightly below 8%, and the overall change represented an increase in tuition rates larger than 90% over this range.
Through the most recent available decade of data, fall 2009 through fall 2018, tuition increased by about 5.5% each year, and just over 60% overall. To Baylor’s credit, this lower percentage increase is not insignificant, but the overall dollar amount was far higher. Tuition rose from $1,055 per hour to $1,716 per hour over this time.
Kaitlyn Gerik said the high cost was difficult to understand given the necessity of a college education in today’s society.
“You’re basically told you don’t have a choice but to go to college. It’s really weird to me that college would be so prohibitively expensive,” Kaitlyn Gerik said.
Meal plans and housing follow similar trends. Some changes, particularly to meal plans, make a direct comparison difficult, but using the examples listed in the Trends report they still jumped from $1,750 per semester in 1991 to $2,420 in 2000, and reached $6,297 by the last report.
Debbie Gerik said the cost increase was understandable, but she doesn’t think the degree of it is justified.
“You expect it to increase because the cost of everything has increased,” Debbie Gerik said. “I do think that it’s very difficult to afford tuition.”
Baylor’s tuition increases have outpaced U.S. inflation. According to data from The Balance, a finance website, inflation hasn’t exceeded 4.1% since 1990, and averaged about 2.5% from 1991-2000 and just under 2% from 2009-2018.
Some changes have been made to the tuition system since the ’90s that benefit students. Baylor instituted a flat-rate model of tuition for the 2002-2003 school year. The flat-rate model charges all full-time students the same rate on a yearly basis, and is based on the cost per hour for the 12 hours required to maintain full-time status. This flat rate system provides a better value to students who take more classes, as a student could take 18 hours for the same price as they’d pay for 12 (excluding any additional fees). With the current price per hour, this can save students upwards of $10,000 when taking the maximum allowed number of hours.
However, the flat-rate model isn’t a cure-all for high tuition. While it does act as a cap keeping costs under control, tuition prices continue to increase each year. Paying $41,194 for an academic year is significantly less expensive than the $60,000+ price tag students could potentially pay without the flat-rate model, but is still far more than the $25,320 students paid in 2009.
According to Debbie Gerik, scholarships are also far more accessible now than when she was at Baylor in the late ’90s.
“Scholarships were not available back then to the extent that they are now,” Debbie Gerik said. “I got a couple of small grants, and I can’t even tell you what they were.”
By contrast, Kaitlyn Gerik’s accomplishments in high school earned her a Provost’s Gold Scholarship, which she said covers about half the cost of her tuition. She also saves money by living at home, while her mother lived in an apartment while at Baylor.
When asked if the cost of Baylor would be too high without her scholarship, both Kaitlyn Gerik and Debbie Gerik answered with certainty.
“Absolutely,” Kaitlyn Gerik said.
“If she didn’t have that scholarship, there’s no way we could have done it,” Debbie Gerik said. “It would have been impossible.”
Scholarships are also available to transfer students, though they don’t pay the same amount as the higher levels of scholarships for incoming freshmen.
Debbie Gerik transferred to Baylor in the fall of 1997 after taking classes at McLennan Community College, and said she averaged about 16 hours per semester before graduating in December 1999. Tuition for this time would have cost roughly $25,000. Debbie Gerik said that this was considered a lot of money for college in the ’90s.
“Even whenever I was [at Baylor], we joked that we’re paying so much at Baylor to become an educator,” Debbie Gerik said.
Using the CPI inflation calculator to adjust for inflation, this would have been about $37,000 for five semesters at today’s dollar value. Less than the flat rate for a year today.
With today’s prices at Baylor, those five semesters would have been over $100,000.
Kaitlyn Gerik took dual credit classes in high school and summer classes at MCC, earning enough credits to put her on track to graduate in fall 2020, a semester early. She said even with the work she put in before coming to Baylor, the price is still cause for second thoughts.
“I think I went into Baylor thinking I didn’t have enough credits or courses to take at MCC to justify it, but I definitely should have done that,” Kaitlyn Gerik said. “It would have been cheaper; it would have been academically easier.”
Despite the doubts and financial burden, Kaitlyn Gerik said Baylor can offer something tuition money can’t buy.
“At this point I’ve had so many good experiences and met so many good people now I don’t know if I’d want to go back and do it differently because of the impact Baylor has made on my life and the people have made on my life,” Kaitlyn Gerik said.
Debbie Gerik also said that even with the high costs, a Baylor education is worth it.
“I think it was worth it both times,” Debbie Gerik said. “It’s a relatively small university and we trust the vision and the guidance of Baylor.”