Education Not Debt members protest against tuition hikes
Club members hoped Kerwin would fight for a tuition freeze
Education Not Debt, a student group concerned with the rise of tuition costs at AU, organized a small protest of approximately 30 people outside of the Butler Board Room on March 3 at the start of the University budget meeting.
The Board of Trustees later voted to implement a tuition hike of 4 percent, which will be implemented in both the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.
END member Amelia Covington, a sophomore, said that tuition hikes are a main concern for the club, and that it is important for students to be aware of the budget process.
“There’s this constant fight to keep tuition high, and while I understand that this is a very tuition-based university, at the same time, the University claims to be really diverse and inclusive, but you can’t really be economically inclusive if you just keep jacking up the price more and more,” Covington said.
Before the board passed the budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 last week, the group focused on tabling across campus and invited students to write letters to President Neil Kerwin in protest of the tuition increase.
Covington said the group decided to write letters to Kerwin specifically because he would be one of the last people to approve the budget. The group hoped the letters would appeal to him in the final months of his presidency, Covington said. They delivered the letters on Wednesday, March 1, where they spoke in front of a staff member expressing their concerns about rising tuition.
Kerwin has not responded to these student letters as of March 8, which Covington estimated to be around 60 total at the end of their tabling.
END member Aijah Raghnal, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, decided to get involved in the club after her friend from her hometown was forced to switch schools because of the rising costs of AU and her inability to receive more financial aid.
“Students shouldn't have their education or experienced marred by whether or not they'll spend the next ten years in debt,” Raghnal said. She expressed concerns that the University is acting more like a “business” and said she wants to help fight back against education as a “debt sentence.”
Covington said they organized the letter writing campaign because the University didn’t organize a community town hall to specifically discuss the tuition hike specifically. She said that overall financial transparency about the budget and the Board of Trustees is necessary for more students to be able to understand why tuition gets raised every two years.
Prior to the passing of the budget, student government leaders hosted a community town hall with members of the budget committee in February.
Covington also noted that a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2011 found that Kerwin was the highest paid university president in the Washington area, earning $1.3 million in salary, benefits, paid compensation and other pay that year.