University raises a record $145 million

We must recommit to making high-quality education accessible and affordable.

Tuition increases skyrocket as the economy remains in a slump. Low-income families and students have to make difficult decisions to gain an education from the University, accruing more debt and working more hours.

With many states in the midst of budget crises and political leaders refusing to raise taxes, while increasing spending in other areas, tuition hikes are a national trend. Some administrators speculate privatization will be the wave of the future. Whatever the case might be, with decreased state support, public universities are now more subject to marketplace constraints.

Still, a full understanding of the tuition crisis does not let University administrators off the hook.

Twenty-five years ago, tuition covered one-third of the cost of instruction; today, students cover fully two-thirds of this cost. University President Bob Bruininks said that students bear 44 percent of the budget cuts. Yet, increases in federal financial aid programs have not done enough for low-income students.

For example, the average Pell Grant has increased by only 3 percent, while tuition increased at least 13 percent in each of the last three years. Broadly speaking, we have seen a relative decrease in need-based versus merit-based scholarships. Students, administrators and alumni alike must push elected officials to change the trend of under funding of higher education.

In response to the budget crisis, the University has done an excellent job of fund raising. University fund-raisers have proven their skill, raising $145 million in the last year, and other campaigns have topped $1 billion. The administration has begun to address affordability with its new scholarship drive. This should only be a start.

Higher education provides many opportunities, including increased future earning potential and social privileges accorded to college graduates. And yet, liberal education in and of itself cannot be undervalued.

In addition to revaluating how money is allocated on local, state and national levels, we must recommit to one of our core values: making high-quality education accessible and affordable.