Where does NYU Tuition Actually Go?

Written by Nikita Verma

Although the definition of “fringe benefits” and “schools” may appear ambiguous with regards to this data, the majority of NYU’s budget is predetermined: it goes to paying the salaries of NYU professors.

Everyone knows that NYU has one of the highest undergraduate tuition rates in the nation. But what few have decoded is just what makes the tuition so high.

Up to a certain point, NYU remains transparent in its financial disclosures. Indeed, published on the NYU website is a complete revenue and expense outline. Close examination reveals that 55% of total expenditure goes to salaries and fringe benefits. Beyond this, 19% goes to building-related costs and 16% goes to operating expenses. Another analysis, classifying the budget by expenditure purpose, shows that 61% of the budget goes straight into the schools and 12% goes into facility management and campus safety.

Although the definition of “fringe benefits” and “schools” may appear ambiguous with regards to this data, the majority of NYU’s budget is predetermined: it goes to paying the salaries of NYU professors. Given the experience and qualifications of professors at NYU, students may be relieved to know that the majority of their tuition goes to their professors. The second-biggest allocation of money goes towards facilities management and campus safety. Attending school in one of the largest (and most expensive) cities in the world does have its costs.  However, students know that they are paying not only for the experience of living in the city, but also the ‘extended classroom’ New York City provides. Although this does come with increased costs of rent, the location allows students to have unique college experiences that virtually no other university could provide them with.

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Graphic by Katherine Wang

Another aspect of the budget that not many consider is that the cost of tuition actually varies by school. For students enrolling in 12 to 18 credits, the price of tuition per semester can vary from $24,375 for students studying at Tandon to $27,712 for students in Tisch. Along the spectrum lies the College of Arts and Sciences at $25,232 and Stern at $26,009. The reason we see a slight difference in the prices by school is because each school, while similar in many ways, has differing needs, offering differing resources to students across differing fields—for example, students in Tisch studying Drama have different resource requirements to students studying Finance in Stern.

Although merit-based scholarships are available, the Office of Financial Aid is much more generous with need-based aid, demonstrating its commitment to using the vast majority of its available scholarship funding to assist students whose families are unable to pay the full cost of an NYU education. Indeed, NYU’s need-blind admissions process indicates an overall commitment to assisting students from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. A data analysis from the New York Times shows that among elite colleges, NYU ranks the fourth highest in the percent of students that enroll from the bottom 40%. In fact, in 2016, grant and scholarship aid was given to 53% of first-year students, and the average financial aid package was $37,000. Although the cost of tuition remains upwards of $70,000 per academic year, many students attending are not paying that much because of their aid packages.

Despite its high price tag, NYU works every year to improve affordability for its students. Undergraduate tuition and fees in the fiscal 2017 budget increased a mere 2.7% over the previous year—the lowest rate increase in 20 years. Ultimately, given its reaching global network, its location in one of the most expensive zip codes in America, and its renowned professors, NYU’s cost of tuition is well-merited.

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