As students struggle to keep up with rising costs, they’re wondering where their tuition dollars go.

Since 2009, tuition prices have risen 39 percent. There’s also been some confusion about the relationship between St. Edwards’s endowment and tuition. At St. Edward’s University, the combination of donors’ and institutional investments comprises the $41 million endowment.

Though this may seem like a lot of money, St. Edward’s follows stringent rules on how the endowment is spent.

University Advancement’s website explains the endowment is analyzed annually and assigned a market value. St. Edward’s then calculates each endowment fund’s three-year market average and spends five percent of that average. This is common practice among most universities; the purpose is to preserve the principal endowment because it will have a greater impact over time.

The funds that are spent from the university’s endowment go to scholarships, faculty development, study abroad opportunities, community service initiatives and more.

According to Rhonda Cartwright, vice-president of financial affairs, the endowment contributes about .5 percent to the total operating budget, the equivalent to about $800,000 per year. “Over 90 percent of the operating budget revenue comes from tuition and fees; St. Edwards’s current operating budget for 2013 is $146.6 million.”

Some students feel like their tuition dollars aren’t being spent wisely, but Cartwright says otherwise.

“Fifty-seven percent of the operating budget is spent on instruction and academic support and 27 percent is spent on student services…very healthy allocations directly benefiting the classroom and campus experience,” Cartwright said.

When asked about why the steady and hefty tuition increases Cartwright detailed university procedure:

“Every two years, the university conducts a pricing study – using a third party consultant. The information gained from this study informs and directs tuition pricing. The university also monitors the prices of our private university competitors and attempts to price at the mid-range of our peer group. We are currently mid-range and have been for a number of years.”

St. Edwards University’s peers include, Tulane, SMU, St. Mary’s, Southwestern, Austin College, Loyola New Orleans, Baylor, Trinity, University of St. Thomas, Texas Lutheran and Incarnate Word.

In comparison, TCU’s endowment is $1.2 billion and the market value of SMU’s endowment was $1.16 billion at the end of May 2012. Baylor University’s endowment is approximately $1 billion. Though the aforementioned schools have vastly larger endowments then St. Edward’s, tuition prices are similar.

St. Edward’s Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 tuition costs are an annual total of $33,320. Averaging room and board and other fees, prices provided on the St. Edward’s website, the total is around $46,000.

For Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 SMU’s annual tuition is $37,050 and $55, 290 when including room and board and fees estimates. TCU’s overall estimate is $46,350 with tuition only costing $34,500 annually. Baylor’s tuition averaged with other fees is $44,000. Expensive tuition is raising concern for more than just students.

Time Magazine released a special report on higher education in October. For a four-year private institution tuition, prices have increased 285 percent since 1980 and have a current national average of $28,500 (excluding room and board). St. Edwards’ tuition is more than the national average but not by much.

All numbers indicate astronomical increases in college, particularly private institutions. Yes, St. Edward’s tuition prices are costly but mirrored in their collegiate peers. Unless St. Edwards or the established trend drastically changes, students can likely look forward to rising costs in higher education.