Tuition to increase 4.4% for 2020-2021 school year

IT to use chunk of increase for 3-year system upgrade

Written By Dara Collins, Editor-in-Chief

Tuition will increase once again for the 2020-2021 school year. Traditional full-time students will see a 4.4% increase on their tuition bill to attend classes at the university.

“We look at the anticipated expenses for next year, and we look at the anticipated enrollment for next year, and then we have an expense number and a revenue number,” Point Park University President Paul Hennigan said. “There’s usually a gap, and that’s what determines how much we have to increase price.”

Currently, students enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year in the Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA) pay $19,870 per semester, and students in the Rowland School of Business and the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Communication and Education pay $15,590 per semester.

For the 2020-2021 school year, students in COPA will pay $20,740 per semester, a $870 increase from the previous cost per semester. Students in the other schools will pay $16,280 per semester, a $690 increase.

Hennigan says about 1.2% of the increase is financial aid increases directly for students.

93% of Point Park students receive financial aid, according to Hennigan, and the university’s website says 99% of the incoming freshmen for the 2019-2020 school year received financial aid.

“My conversation with most students is that they understand that tuition will increase,” Hennigan said. “We’re particularly focused on students who have a change of life circumstance that would require a review of their individual financial aid package.”

Hennigan says the university considers a parent losing a job, a parent’s death or a divorce as a life changing circumstance. If a student experiences a situation of this kind, they have the opportunity to file an appeal.

Every student has their own financial aid package based on their individual circumstances, according to Hennigan.

In addition to financial aid increases, roughly half of the tuition raise is set to go towards general operating expense increases, according to Hennigan. This includes faculty and staff salaries, healthcare, electric and other utilities.

A lot of people review a tuition increase before it is finally decided, according to Hennigan, including Finance and Operations staff, Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations Bridget Mancosh and the university’s Board of Trustees.

“It’s a months long process to create the annual operating budget for the university,” Hennigan said.

The individuals involved consider multiple factors when raising tuition, according to Hennigan.

“Have we been prudent with student money,” Hennigan said, “Are we spending it wisely? Are we getting the most out of our expenses? Have we diversified our revenue streams? Where do we fall in the marketplace of schools that we compare ourselves to?”

A significant portion of the tuition increase, 1.2%, will fund the first phase of a campus-wide Informational Technology upgrade.

According to Hennigan, the IT upgrade will cost close to $3 million over three years, and one phase of the project will be completed each year. Year one will focus on the core and distribution pieces of the network.

“The first year, we’re focusing on the core of the infrastructure,” Director of IT Infrastructure Aaron Seymour said. “Kind of a typical network model is you have the core…the central operations piece. That’s where your Internet connection comes in. Expanding out from that, you have what we call the distribution layer, which is the portion of the network that feeds connectivity to individual buildings around campus.”

Year two will focus on the access layer, “the part where everybody basically connects into the network,” according to Seymour. Seymour also said that beginning with the core is the best place to start because it will “provide the best platform to build on from a security and from a performance standpoint.”

Seymour said that IT is currently in the process of purchasing all of the equipment for phase one, and it will be ready to implement this upcoming summer. Upgrading the system during the summer will minimize the effects on students using technology around campus.

“A lot of this work will happen over the summer at times when there’s a relatively small number of students on campus, breaks and then off hours,” Seymour said. “Some of the pieces we need to replace are pretty critical pieces of infrastructure, so there will be planning. There will be some announcements that go out in advance before anything happens.”

Students will notice incremental improvements after the first summer due to more capacity in the core infrastructure, but the more noticable changes will come in year two, according to Seymour.

The university has not undergone an entire infrastructure upgrade since 2012, according to Seymour. Tim Wilson, Assistant Vice President of IT, is determined to give students a reliable network with the three-year upgrade.

“We want to deliver a technical infrastructure that is reliable,” Wilson said. “You shouldn’t be asking yourselves, ‘I wonder if it’s going to work.’ That should never cross your mind. You should just expect it.”

Students bring an average of three to four different devices to campus and connect to the network, according to Wilson. Aside from computers, Wilson says students bring game systems, TVs, smart TVs, iPhones and Android phones.

Other technology across campus operates on the network, including washers and dryers, security cameras and the scanners the campus community uses to scan their IDs for access to buildings.

“Those are all network devices today,” Wilson said. “A lot of our locks on campus are computer chips and computer-operated anymore. The digital signs you see all over campus all sit on a network. All of that flows back through, in some way, shape or form, this department, and we are expected to make it work in its entirety.”

Certain programs also require a need for technology services, according to Wilson. “There’s certain programs, like the cinema and animation folks, communication folks that are doing things with digital photography and doing things with TV production and movie-making,” Wilson said. “When you start talking about these kinds of programs, they’re heavy technology programs, and for those to operate really correctly in 2020, we need to give you an infrastructure to be able to move that data around and store that data and work on it wherever you want to work on it.”

In addition to using devices for academic purposes, Wilson acknowledges students use the network for personal matters as well. All students’ technological needs drive the cause for a better campus-wide network.

“You folks are driving the need, to be quite honest, because you’re expecting to do things like stream your favorite movies and watch your favorite sporting events, and right now…we’re not delivering a reliable enough service associated with that,” Wilson said.

Seymour says campus Internet usage is at its highest around 11 p.m.

“We don’t watch your emails and things like that, but what we do is we watch bandwidth in its entirety and aggregate, so we see Netflix, we see ESPN, we see those kind of web services that are associated with video and audio,” Wilson said. “You’re doing the entertainment thing, and you should do those kinds of things. You’re students that live on campus. It’s part of the whole college experience. It’s not just about going to class; it’s about the things that happen in your lives outside of class, too.”

In addition to better performance, Wilson and Seymour say the network security will increase as well. Seymour referenced the Equifax and Facebook hacks and explained “major companies that have huge budgets have invested in their security and still found themselves compromised.”

“We have to make these kinds of investments and we have to make this commitment to network security,” Seymour said. “It does mean it’s more inconvenient in some ways, but we would be negligent if we didn’t just because that’s the reality of the Internet in 2019.”

The announcement of the technology upgrade follows news of multiple outages across campus.

“Some of those outages are because of old design or old equipment,” Wilson said. “Some of those outages are self-inflicted because people will put stuff on a network and because we don’t have the technology that’s up to date to detect it and quarantine this.”

Wilson says the department is working to build an infrastructure that is “as fool-proof as possible,” but we will still suffer self-inflicted wounds.

“No environment is going to be completely free of malware or free of the occasional upset, but the thought is mitigation,” Seymour said. “How do we contain that so it’s not a campus-wide outage? It’s an outage affecting a small number of people or something like that.”

Wilson encourages students to continue reporting connectivity problems to the Help Desk during the upgrade process.

“They need to report that to the Help Desk because we do take that into consideration…if we have a good list of where our biggest heartaches are, we can address those first,” Wilson said.

Considering all portions of the tuition increase, Hennigan believes the overall increase is essential to the future of students.

“It’s an investment in one’s future, so the important thing is for our students to take advantage of the internship opportunities and the co-op opportunities so that our students are fully prepared as seniors to interview for jobs, get a job and begin to earn a living and then get a return on the investment,” Hennigan said.

“All of the data and all of the research clearly shows that people with a college degree will live a healthier, happier, longer and more fulfilled life than those without a college degree,” Hennigan said.