Sunday, October 17, 2010

How high will tuition go next year?

The U is about to fall off a cliff. The stimulus money will be gone next year. The state is asking the U to model cuts of 5-10-15%. What does this mean for tuition?

According to the minutes of the 9/21 meeting of the Senate Committee on Finance and Planning, students will see an increase of about $750 thanks to the elimination of the stimulus funds, which were used to cover tuition increases. So even without a formal tuition increase, students will pay more.

Julie Tonneson of the Office of Budget and Finance explained that the increase in the tuition rate depends on a) the base that is used (whether it be the adjusted base of $642.2m or the actual appropriation for FY11 of 591.1m) and b) the amount of the cut. If the cut is 15% of the $642.2m base, then students will see an increase of about 6%. But if the lower base of $591.1m is used, a 15% cut would require a increase in tuition of 11.8%.

Frankly, I was shocked by the uncritical acceptance by many speakers of the connection between cuts in state appropriations and tuition increases. Dean Finnegan said, "When the state disinvests, students pay more." But that is only partially true. Students pay more even when the state invests more. What struck me is how little discussion there was of how the administration's ambition to become one of the top-three public universities in the universe is implicated in the impulse to use students as ATMs. Perhaps if the administration stopped milking the tuition-generating colleges to fund its other priorities, they would not have to raise tuition so much.

Thankfully, Dean Parrente argued that the U cannot expect students to keep forking out more money for a lower quality educational experience: "What is extremely important as the university plans for the next biennium is that it makes clear what it is doing to enhance quality for students. That must be a main driver; the university cannot argue for tuition increases because the state is cutting funding. The tuition increases must be related to the quality of education."

Link to the full minutes here.

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