Staff Editorial: WashU, don’t raise tuition
Every year when February rolls around, Washington University students open their inboxes to be greeted by the same dreaded news from the administration: a tuition increase. Last year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, tuition rose by $1,450, an increase of 2.6%. And even that was the lowest increase in more than 50 years. The year before that it went up by $2,050, a 3.8% increase following five consecutive increases of 3.5%.
WashU now charges $57,750 for tuition. That’s not including room, board and other fees, which bring the total price tag up to more than $76,700 and make WashU one of the most expensive college educations in the country.
Looking at that shocking number as we continue to face the challenges of the pandemic, we ask the University: Don’t raise tuition this year.
The administration has not made any announcements about next year’s tuition yet, and we call on them to break the cycle of massive cost increases and freeze tuition this year. The University has made some great strides in creating a more equitable, inclusive campus. Adopting a need-blind admissions policy was a major advancement toward increasing socioeconomic diversity, and programs like the WashU Pledge and the “no-loan” policy for those with family incomes of $75,000 or less also make a WashU education more attainable.
However, raising tuition once again in the midst of a national conversation on student loan debt and the affordability of college would signal that WashU is not fully committed to improving access to college education, countering the mission of its recent programs.
The pandemic has caused incredible financial hardship for many students and their families. And even with the return of in-person learning, the WashU experience looks very different from the full pre-COVID version, yet it’s become thousands of dollars more expensive.
We acknowledge that the University is grappling with pandemic challenges, such as supply chain issues or rising costs for certain services. Still, these unprecedented obstacles also come at a time of unprecedented growth. WashU made national headlines this past September when Chancellor Andrew Martin announced that the Washington University managed endowment pool grew by 65% during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Out of the top 15 largest institutional endowments, WashU saw the second-best change in market value. To increase tuition just a few months after such a massive financial development would be a slap in the face of the many WashU families who, in contrast to the University’s growth throughout the last couple years, have only dealt with loss.
While we hope the University shares our stance and announces a freeze, we know a tuition increase is far more likely. If that is the case, we call on WashU to provide better transparency regarding the need for the hike. We refuse to remain complacent and accept tuition increases as normal simply because they happen every year. When does it end? It may seem reasonable that increases should continue along with inflation, but can the University commit to matching that rate? And, if so, shouldn’t campus worker wages rise along at that same pace?
We also request more hard data on where exactly this money would go. Students still need more support from the University as they attempt to navigate an ongoing crisis, especially considering the uncertainty and disruptions this recent surge has caused. Need-blind admissions and the WashU Pledge have been tremendous steps, but we need to see how the University will continue to use its funds to address the issues that students and local community members have long raised.
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Staff editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of our editorial board members. The editorial board operates independently of our newsroom and includes members of the senior staff.
Editor-in-Chief: Matthew Friedman
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