We are screwed. The belated end of the legislative session means for students on our campus tuition’s going up this fall by 13.8 percent, which comes out to approximately $659 per year. Add on to this the difficulty of finding somewhere affordable to live near campus, rising bus fares, mounting credit card debt, and rising costs in the parking lots. Yet throughout all of this, students aren’t seeing increases in their wages. The Board of Regents and President Mark Yudof both say they are acting in the students’ best interest with the tuition hike, but unless we see a definite improvement in quality at the University, the tuition increase is only in the interest of the administration. It seems that University students who are scraping by right now are in for some hard times this fall, and the freedom and independence that once seemed so desirable is becoming more of a burden as students struggle to balance their academic and financial lives.
Some have criticized students for being whiny beggars looking for handouts from the government. Student dissatisfaction is not uncommon here at the University, even before the tuition announcement, and most of student’s complaints are justified. Obviously, the state legislature isn’t too satisfied with the University either, since our full budget request, or at least a more reasonable proportion, wasn’t seriously considered. Thus, if students aren’t satisfied and the state isn’t satisfied, there is a larger problem with the University that is going unresolved.
Students, parents, educators and legislators all want the University to be the highly regarded institution of higher education that it has the potential to be. Transferring the weight of the University’s problems onto students’ finances will not help our campus remain accessible and affordable. Perhaps the state legislature needs to think more progressively in the future and encourage people seeking higher education by showing their support through adequate financial aid.
Another issue with the tuition increase is the Council of Undergraduate Deans’ desire to see more students leave their jobs to attend classes full time in order to improve graduation rates. According to a Boynton Health Service’s 1998-99 report, only 16.4 percent of students do not work. Working is essential to students at this school. For many students, depending on parents to help with tuition costs is not an option, and financial aid is limited for students whose parents claim them as dependents yet won’t take on a portion of the cost of school. Even though Pell grants will see an increase over the next two years, and loans will go up to match the rising cost, students will only be faced with more debt after graduation. However, job salaries for graduates aren’t going up to match the debt they have incurred.
Unfortunately, the University can no longer depend on the state for financial assistance. With the largest tuition hike in over 20 years, and budgets that rarely keep pace with inflation, University officials need to find ways to raise private money that will directly help students. Instead of endowments specifically earmarked for facility upgrades and buildings such as the Gateway Alumni Center, investors should be encouraged to fund more scholarships and grants.
The University needs to keep in mind that educating students is the primary goal of the institution; research is valuable, but students cannot be neglected. Research becomes pointless if the knowledge from that research is not passed on to the next generation. The University cannot be afraid to support the endeavors of students, be it four or eight years of study. Students can provide a valuable resource for the school as well as the state. In the future, the state cannot be as foolish as it has been and continue to neglect the University. Many loudly claim support for education, but it becomes a very different matter when they are asked to back up their words with real action. However, for now it appears that students will be forced to bear the brunt of this costly burden.