Troubling tuition costs cause turmoil

By Samantha Lund, Columnist

In President Obama’s January State of the Union speech, he called for a reversal on rising tuition costs. “Higher level education cannot be a luxury,” President Obama said. “It’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

To that, I say, “heck yes.” I also wonder why Pacific Lutheran University is not listening. Last year, tuition alone cost $32,800, rising this year to $34,440. Last year, students got a letter in the mail about rising tuition, which explained the extra $2,000 added to our bills. That letter caused a stir and a grumble among students, but not enough for them to get up and do something about it. It seems like students are just savoring the time they have until it gets bumped up again.

In Florida, tuition for state colleges and universities is frozen. This applies to universities across Minnesota too. A frozen tuition is just that, a tuition price that does not waver or increase over time. It is a trend that is catching on in many universities. Colleges are realizing how tempting a frozen tuition is to most students and are giving them what they want.

PLU should jump on board, before legislation passes, and become one of the many colleges leading the way. We are very progressive in so many things. We should be progressive in tuition and student life as well.

“In today’s world, we need a college degree to get hired at most places,” sophomore Emma Pierce said. “But in order to go to college, we have to invest a lot of our time and money. In order to make money, we have to pay. It’s kind of like a never-ending cycle.”

With tuition across the country rising, community colleges and accelerated programs are getting more enrollments than ever. These types of schools offer quicker degrees or the option to skip over those general education courses that add years to your university time. General education requirements are something that make PLU special.

However, if tuition is rising and those requirements are the reason students have to stay in school for four years instead of three, then I do not see how that cost is worth it when we could go to a community college and do those for a much less burdensome price.

“I feel like PLU could maybe see where they could adjust their budgets in some places, like not watering the grass during certain seasons or limiting how many dishes students use at dinner,” Pierce said. “By reducing the budget in certain areas of excess, there would be more funds for scholarships.”

Another option that colleges and universities have decided to take part in is setting up programs to offset the cost of tuition. For instance, university sustainability programs have promoted the concept of offsetting tuition with being sustainable. Therefore, if students over the course of a year can recycle and reuse 90 percent of waste produced, tuition would not be raised the next year. These programs support not only a tuition freeze, but environmental awareness and student involvement as well.

Some schools argue they offset raising tuition by raising financial aid, which is a misconception. According to economist and publisher Mark Kantrowitz, schools hand out a lot of aid, but to raise aid by another dollar, they must raise tuition by $1.50.  At that rate, colleges would be raising tuition about 50 percent faster than the rising inflation of our country. Financial aid cannot be the only solution. Internal programs should be taking an active role in working toward a fixed tuition rate.

If there is anything I know about  Lutes, it is that they love their school, but they also love change, and we make change happen where we see it is necessary. When Lutes push for change, they can make anything happen. 🅼

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