Students irritated by next tuition increase
Though tuition has been steadily increasing every year in memory, students are still frustrated with the administration’s low prioritization of affordability.
Washington University announced last week that undergraduate tuition would be increasing to $45,700 for the 2014-15 year, a $1,600 jump that signifies the lowest percent increase in decades but is still enough to raise student concern.
Some feel that they have been unfairly trapped into paying more than they bargained for.
“I think it is ridiculous and unnecessary for the price of college to rise at such a high rate,” freshman Christian Ralph said. “To casually raise tuition for the next school year by $1,600 unfairly puts a strain on people who can barely afford college as is.”
“Freshmen students, by the time they graduate, will end up having to pay thousands of dollars more than what they [thought they would be] paying initially,” he added.
Barbara Feiner, vice chancellor for finance, noted that tuition covers numerous expenses, including compensation, salaries, benefits and fringes for staff, controllable costs, travel, training supplies, computers, and facilities. Tuition is also used to cover the allocation of the salaries of administrators such as the chancellor who do not work for a single school within the University.
She was quick to note that the tuition rate of increase is at its lowest in 60 years but did not think that the increases would ever come to a full stop.
“We want to give salary increases. We want to do new work and move the University forward, and that takes money,” Feiner said.
Tuition is the largest source of revenue in each of the four undergraduate schools. It is also unrestricted, which means the University can spend it however it sees fit; money given by donors, on the other hand, is typically allocated toward a particular purpose.
Freshman Adam Hoffman argued that continuing to increase tuition every year is not a reasonable long-term plan.
“Year after year, Wash. U. raises its costs just like every other major university; this is a system that isn’t sustainable and isn’t aimed at providing the best experience to students—it’s aimed at raising the salaries of high-level administrators and chancellors, which it consistently does. It’s aimed at turning a bit more of a profit and marginally increasing services, if at all, but at the end of the day, students come here to learn, and while all the frills and the other experiences are nice, they shouldn’t come at the expense of our families’ fiscal sustainability,” Hoffman said.
Other students have simply resigned themselves to the reality of rising costs.
“My scholarships should cover it, so I’m not too worried, but I see why other people are,” freshman T.J. Brantley said. “[Tuition] goes up, and it sucks, but we know what it’s going toward.”
Provost Holden Thorp said he understands student resentment toward rising tuition but feels that the additional expenses are necessary for the University as a whole.
“I think it’s painful whenever you have to increase it, but this is the lowest [increase] in percentage terms that we’ve had in the past few years,” Thorp said. “Some of the costs have to do with increased regulations, and some have to do with increased services that people want. It’s very hard to make things smaller when you have so my constituencies with so many things that are important to them.”
Thorp expressed a desire for more affordability in higher education and noted that financial aid and socioeconomic diversity are still top priorities for the University.
“We need to do what we can to slow [tuition increases] down because the growth in the costs makes it hard for us in multiple ways, especially for students and families paying tuition,” he said. “We don’t want to break promises we’ve made about financial aid. We know people are expecting a lot from our institution.”