Tuition Increases are Reaching the Tipping Point
Despite the dulling of our minds thanks to the constantly breaking news cycle, I hope that we can remember that, only a few short weeks ago, the administration quietly decided to raise tuition another 4.5%, on top of the 3.8% increase from last year. Next year, Wesleyan will cost just about $60,000 for upperclassmen and $58,000 for underclassmen, up nearly $7,000 from when I first arrived here in 2009. Many problems arise with this casual increase in tuition, the first of which is that the raise is entirely unsustainable.
At a school that supposedly emphasizes “sustainability,” it amazes me that our bureaucrats would think a 4.5% tuition increase would work, as if it were only natural that a college’s tuition increases at twice the rate of national inflation. President Roth himself has acknowledged that the annual increase is not sustainable for the years to come; I would argue that the cost has already reached a tipping point.
Middle class students and their families bear the brunt of this increase, as they will continue to qualify for little aid from the FAFSA and Wesleyan’s Office of Financial Aid, yet are expected to pay the additional tuition. These students will probably accept offers to schools that both cost less and offer merit scholarships. From numerous educational standpoints, Wesleyan is hardly unique. Lower income students stand to lose as well. Financial aid doesn’t always increase more than tuition. Students should not be made to feel liable for Wesleyan’s out-of-control tuition increases.
Wesleyan itself also suffers under increased tuition. The income gap between students will widen. The atmosphere will continue to take on the stench of a post-prep school institution if the administration cannot control Wesleyan’s cost. The fact that Wesleyan is among the top ten most expensive schools in the country is simply embarrassing. I come from Illinois, where most of my friends attend school in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana. A year of school for them costs less than $40,000; that’s still an obscene amount of money, but students are offered merit scholarships.
Another valid argument against $60,000 a year is that the more this school costs, the more each student is entitled to in terms of an overall college experience. The more you pay, the more you’re supposed to get, or at least that’s how the tradition goes. That means that when the school costs more than it did in previous years, there should be more seats in popular classes and fewer forced triples, which is exactly the opposite of what we see happening. The class of 2015 has over 800 students, and many will have to live in the Butts as sophomores next year. Thus, Wesleyan parents are paying more for their children’s college experiences while students are getting less, as many of you probably discovered during GRS or pre-registration.
What can we ask from the administration, from the trustees, and from President Roth? Well, asking for a reduction in the tuition or in room-and-board or in any other part of Wesleyan’s bill would lead to an automatic threat to our need-blind policy. International students lost need-blind admissions in 2010—the school is serious about using need-blind as their first hostage. What we should be asking for instead is either a freeze on tuition increases for the next two to three years, or a lock-in system for tuition whereby students pay the same tuition over the course of their four years here at Wesleyan. All I ask is that we, the students, do not forget about this tuition increase or the fact that our school costs more than all but one or two schools in the country. Keep the chalking alive, and hopefully some kind of fruitful protest will result from our massive discontent with $60,000 a year.