Sunday, June 6, 2010

On College Tuition Hikes

I want to voice a few thoughts on college tuition, both as a current undergraduate student and as the child of a college professor. Recently, there have been huge, almost crippling cuts to the funding of my university. Rather logically, the university is considering turning to tuition to bridge the gap, so that they can cut as few programs and opportunities for the students as possible. There has been an uproar from portions of the student body over the proposed tuition hikes. They point to bloated sports programs and administrative salaries as problems that should be slashed to meet the deficit. What they fail to realize is that, at least in the case of our specific university, cutting these would only be a drop in the bucket compared to the shortfall. Huge cuts across the board and/or tuition hikes are some of the only options truly feasible at this point, to truly bridge the growing gap in funding.

One of the first places that the money will come from is the professors' pockets. Already a horribly underpaid profession, they stand to be hurt even farther. Ever heard of the parable of the cobbler whose children went barefoot? My mother is a professor at a certain private university. If my father didn't happen to be in a very lucrative position in his highly specialized field, if he had followed his dream of becoming a professor, there is no way I could have afforded to go to my current undergraduate university without a huge burden of debt... and I go to what is considered a (comparably) very affordable public university

I know that tuition hikes will hurt many people. I am among those who stand to be hurt, and hurt badly by tuition hikes at my college. I'm not saying "damn low tuition, screw those who can't afford it!" because I'm among those who would be hurt by this change. I'm just saying that, given the horrible financial situation that has very suddenly been dumped on our university by an awful governor (hey, I didn't vote for him) who thinks a good educational system is a waste of state money, there aren't many choices. I am unfortunately too aware of the other side of the story to join the hordes of idealists mobbing the doors of the administrative buildings, threatening violence if the proposed tuition hikes go through. I agree that the money should come from elsewhere first (hello, bloated sports and top-heavy administrative systems), but I can't ignore the facts. Too much state funding was ripped out from under us to make up for by paring sports or cutting superfluous administrators. They are going to have to raise our tuition costs.

Personally, I'd prefer, say, a 10% increase in tuition next year over not being able to complete my major because so many classes and sections were cut. I have friends who got slammed with that last time our state funding dropped. It took them an extra year to finish their degrees, which is a heck of a lot more than the cost of the tuition hike.
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