By Samantha Lund ’16
Across America, slowly but surely, colleges and universities are raisin
g the cost of tuition. Some states, like Florida, have put freezes on the price of tuition for state colleges. However, private schools, like our dear Pacific Lutheran University, have freedom to raise tuition as they see fit. We go to a beautiful school with plenty of benefits associated with the cost increase. However, the burden put on students, and families of students, to come up with extra money each year needs to be considered, and a change needs to happen.
Students who attended PLU last year expected to pay the school $32,800 for tuition. Sadly, around spring semester, students across campus received a letter from the school explaining a tuition increase which raised tuition by two thousand dollars. From that letter there was a stir among students, but not enough to affect anything. No huge changes have been made and at this point we are all just savoring this year before the next year comes with another tuition increase.
For a school that is very progressive and forward thinking about so many things we are falling behind on being proactive about raising tuition. Schools all across the nation are freezing tuition. All Florida state schools have frozen tuitions as well as Minnesota campuses. As a private college we have the opportunity to get ahead of our state laws and promote the idea of a frozen tuition. A frozen tuition is just that: a cost that is frozen for a set amount of time, forbidding any increases. It is a trend that will slowly sweep the United States; PLU can join the cause now and continue being progressive.
President Obama, in his State of the Union speech, called for a reversal on rising tuition costs. “Higher level education can’t be a luxury;” Obama said, “It’s an economic imperative that every family in American should be able to afford.” Our President then put colleges and universities on notice, saying if tuition continued to increase at such a high rate, he will cut funding from tax payers.
With tuition rates rising still, community colleges and accelerated classes are getting more attention from prospective students. These types of institutions offer classes for less money – to get those dreaded general education requirements out of the way – or they offer an accelerated program to graduate in less time – to not have to take the dreaded general education classes at all. These types of institutions allow for more students and a quicker student turnover. If PLU offered an accelerated program, allowing students to acquire a degree in three years instead of four, it would not only make it cheaper for students, but also allow the university to keep their tuition and still get the same amount of money coming in.
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% of waste produced, tuition would not be raised the next year. These programs do not only support a tuition freeze, but environmental awareness and student involvement. Some schools argue that 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 in order to raise aid by another dollar, they must raise tuition by $1.50. At that rate, colleges will be raising tuition about 50% faster than the raising inflation of our country. Financial aid cannot be the only solution. Internal programs should be taking an active role in working towards a fixed tuition rate.
This is not a call to alarm anyone. Mainly this is the call to begin a long process that will take a lot of work and dedication on everyone’s part. Students need to get involved, faculty as well, and work with the administration to try and be as progressive and proactive as we have been in our other causes. There is no doubt that if Lutes want to make a change, it will happen.