By Jessy Murgel
The fight for a fixed tuition rate is a commendable one, but it sure isn’t the fight we should be fighting.
As a student dependent on financial aid, I’ll be the first to admit that AU’s costs are astronomical. But let’s take a look at the facts: AU’s budget cycle is a two-year process, so a typical student can only see two increases to tuition and other fees in their four-year career. In the previous cycle, AU implemented a 3.75 percent increase. Realistically, this increase doesn’t put a huge dent into anyone’s bank account (or debt accumulation) in the long term. Before you toss this paper in disgust, let me explain.
We have to understand the implications of a fixed tuition: It does not guarantee that our money will be put to good use. Rather, it may instead go toward cutting what students view as necessary expenditures. For instance, an adjunct in the College of Arts and Sciences makes $1,800 per semester class. Conversely, President Neil Kerwin makes just over $666,000 per year (note the first three digits).
According to AU’s website, the only thing they value more than ensuring college affordability to its students is the quality of its faculty. Well, then let’s hold them accountable to that and make sure they’re paying our most valuable asset a fair amount. And, who knows, maybe we could start paying adjuncts a decent wage rather than having bounce houses on the Quad every other week?
The only way we can make these changes is if we understand where our money goes. We ought to demand that our administration make certain changes based on what students, as the source of funds, consider essential.
Budget transparency should no longer be a matter of negotiation. If we’re going to be indebted for years to come after we walk across that stage, we better know full well that our money (or Sallie Mae’s for that matter) was well spent. Before we start insisting that the University function on less funding than it deems necessary, we should ensure that our money is being properly allocated to that which students regard as important.
This being said, what sacrifices are we willing to make? There seems to be a disconnect between uninformed protests demanding a decrease in available funds and the luxuries our four-year private institution offers. Faculty salaries, LEED certified buildings, new residence halls: we fund all of this. If these are things you’re willing to give up, then by all means, keep fighting for a fixed tuition.
The way AU and higher education in general is funded undoubtedly gives us the right to be furious. But let’s be infuriated about the right things. Not to be flippant, but we shouldn’t be fighting to save each of us a couple thousand dollars. We should be fighting to revolutionize the system. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but a fixed tuition is merely a Band-Aid over a deep-rooted issue that isn’t going to go away unless we radically change how our administration uses our money, unless we radically change how the administration treats its students. And that starts with us taking our No. 1 political activist energy and putting it towards the fight that can initiate substantial change here at AU.
Jessy Murgel is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences