When Tuition Rises, Students Feel Left Behind
(Originally featured in The Hoya, Aug. 14, 2016: http://www.thehoya.com/when-tuition-rises-students-feel-left-behind/)
This morning, I opened Twitter and saw that Georgetown posted a series of photos of the new Thompson Athletic Center, as the university has done seemingly every day ahead of the center’s opening. It is almost as if our school is so proud of its new $62 million facility that it does not have any time to focus on explaining to students why it raised tuition yet again by $3,000. For the 2016 to 2017 year, the average total cost of attendance if currently $69,770 for freshmen and $70,140 for continuing undergrads.
This is the second tuition increase since I applied in 2014, and not once have I seen information or an explanation for why Georgetown needs more money from its students. Not even an email notifying me of the tuition raise.
I understand that this is a competitive tuition with similar private colleges and that Georgetown is not an outlier in its egregious cost of attendance, but I want to know why the school can afford a brand-new gym with state-of-the-art facilities and a laundry list of amenities, yet still need more money to pay for student expenses. If the university were able to get the $62 million for a center that will be almost exclusively used by varsity athletes — who make up 10 percent of the student population — then why could it not give back a similar amount to the rest of the student body? If we do not deserve new resources for all students, especially those in the humanities and social sciences who do not have a beautiful new building to call home, then at least give us a break with tuition.
One of the biggest problems with this new tuition increase is that when the school raised the cost of attendance last year, it created a budget surplus of almost $20 million in 2014–15. Georgetown also exceeded its fundraising goals this year by millions of dollars. So in theory, it would make sense for tuition to fall. There was no need to raise tuition again when there was apparently no need to do so last time. Families like mine are struggling to find ways to afford sending their students to school. Many of us would have struggled paying for a private university education, yet constant tuition increases do not make this easier and don’t make sense. When we have a new athletic center being built right in front of our eyes and when the school was so quick to let us know about the record $50 million gift for rebuilding the Multisport Facility, it feels like academic and financial needs are being ignored, even cheated.
I am not expecting the university to drastically decrease its tuition, partially because I know the athletic center was funded by outside contributions and partially because I have low expectations for our school responding to students’ needs. Here is what I am asking: Georgetown needs to be clear and consistent in letting students know when and why there will be changes in the cost of attendance. The university needs to send out emails and letters to all families detailing how much the cost is changing and why. I would also like to see a breakdown, made clear on Georgetown’s website, of where all of the money we give to the school goes. This breakdown should include a dollar amount for every expense: maintenance, energy bills, staff salaries and all other imaginable uses for our money.
When the University of California made moves to raise tuition in 2015, the UC president responded to student protests and froze tuition for a two-year period — even though this came with the help of state funding, and new increases are now being introduced. This can be done at Georgetown too. Students should reach out to administration through emails, letters or phone calls, and let them know that it is not okay to simply raise prices on us without explanation. Let them know that we deserve to know what the school is using our money for. All of us deserve improved facilities and resources, not just a select few.
The fact of the matter is I will be paying off debt from these four years of undergraduate education for decades to come, and the more tuition increases, the less time I will be able to live debt free, and the less money I will have to give back, especially to Georgetown. For now, the least Georgetown’s administration can do is be transparent and receptive about our tuition.