As we approach the one-year mark of going primarily virtual in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am grateful for the grace, creativity and resilience with which our campus community continues to meet the challenges of these unprecedented times. Today, I write to update you on our plans for next fall, as well as the development of the university’s budget for fiscal year 2022 as it relates to tuition, fees and financial aid. While much of this information may not directly impact those of you who are set to graduate in a few months, I wanted to include you all so that, whether as continuing students, future Redhawks or alumni to be, you have a sense of our planning for the upcoming year.
As we continue to monitor the course of the pandemic and follow public health guidance, our plan for the fall academic term is to return to a primarily in-person mode for both instruction and the student experience. After consulting with Academic Assembly and hearing from student government leaders, we have decided to begin the fall quarter as scheduled on Sept. 22, 2021, for undergraduate and graduate students, and the fall semester on Aug. 23, 2021, for law students. Following Thanksgiving, with few exceptions, undergraduate and graduate students will finish out the quarter virtually in order to minimize public health risks associated with traveling home and back to campus. The School of Law will address plans for the end of its fall semester with law students in a separate communication.
As for student housing, university-managed residence halls will return to double-occupancy rooms for the fall. (We do not anticipate offering triple-occupancy rooms, at least in the fall.) There will still be a need to continue setting aside some rooms for isolation and quarantine purposes.
Even as we prepare for a more traditional student experience next year, we are in the process of exploring some changes this spring that would allow students more opportunities for in-person classes, activities and other smaller gatherings. Public health guidelines are allowing for some increased flexibility in this regard and we are committed to working creatively to enhance our current students’ participation in the life of the university and with one another. As we move forward together, each of us will need to continue doing our part to support one another’s health and safety.
All phases and aspects of our planning will continue to be informed by public health guidance as we prioritize above all else the health, safety and wellness of our campus community. This has been our commitment throughout the pandemic and one from which we will not waver.
Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid
It is important for us to always keep you, our students, and your academic and other needs at the center of all our decision-making and that is especially true when it comes to developing annual budgets and longer-term investments and financial planning. While much work remains to be done in finalizing the FY22 budget, some key parameters are in place. With the pandemic exacting financial burdens on many, including some within our university community, it is all the more imperative that we do everything we can to help keep the cost of an SU education within the reach of all students and families, particularly as we strive to be a truly inclusive university. For this reason, we are holding tuition and fee increases to 2 percent—roughly half the rate of increase we’ve had in recent years. Additionally, one of the biggest investments we will make in FY22 is to financial aid.
At the same time, while we and most universities continue to address budget challenges because of the pandemic impact, we are committed to supporting you in every aspect of your Seattle University education. This includes investing in the programs as well as the people—our faculty and staff—upon whom the quality and richness of your academic and co-curricular experiences depend. Although final levels are still to be decided, there will be compensation increases and some restoration of retirement benefits for faculty and staff in the FY22 budget.
We will continue to update you on the university’s plans for the fall term as they develop. In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming our new and continuing students to campus in the fall and may you and your loved ones be healthy, safe and well.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.