Responding to the pressures of a continuing downward trend in the nation’s economy, the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees has approved an increase in tuition and a plan for cost savings as part of the 2003-04 operating budget.p. A 6.5 percent increase in tuition and room and board for undergraduates will bring the yearly total to $34,100. This year Notre Dame ranks 80th in cost among the nation’s 129 top private colleges and universities and was ranked 14th among research universities deemedbest values," when comparing academic excellence with net cost of attendance.p. At the same time, the University has aggressively pursued cost savings, including a budget reduction of 5 percent in areas of academic and student life and 7 percent in all other departments.p. “Faced with the financial challenges of the moment, we’ve fashioned a plan that makes the necessary hard choices while still allowing us to maintain our commitment to excellence in the academic and student life of the University,” said Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., University president.p. Father Malloy informed parents and guardians of the tuition increase in a letter sent out this week. Undergraduate tuition will increase by $1,660 to $27,170. Undergraduate room and board will increase by $420 to $6,930.p. Also, Graduate School tuition in 2003-04 will increase by 6.5 percent to $27,070, and tuition for both the Law School and the Master of Business Administration program will increase by 6.5 percent to $27,800.p. "There is no hiring freeze, no layoffs are mandated by the new budget, and there is a modest amount for merit salary increases,according to John Sejdinaj, vice president for finance.p. “All our units proposed plans to meet their targeted budget goals with an impressive spirit of cooperation for these difficult times,” he said. “Now they will set about implementing those plans.”p. One area that will not be cut is financial aid for students. Currently, about 45 percent of incoming students receive University-based scholarship assistance, the value of which has tripled in the last seven years.p. While expressing gratitude for the budget efforts of Notre Dame administrators and deans, Sejdinaj noted that further challenges remain on the horizon.p. “The markets remain volatile and the threat of war only adds to the uncertainty,” he said. “Between reduced appropriations for state schools and the impact of the markets on the endowments of private institutions, higher education may be entering an extended period of lowered financial expectations.”p.