The University’s budget should be a top priority for all students, but it’s clear that the students advocating for us, elected or not, are failing.
It’s easy to dismiss raising tuition costs as unnecessary and to complain about President Neil Kerwin’s salary. But tuition decisions are never that simple, and a tuition freeze is simply misguided.
AU is a private university, meaning it lacks state funding and has to operate from two revenue sources: alumni endowments and tuition. AU has only begun to emerge in the last 50 years, so it cannot depend heavily on alumni endowments like competing universities, such as George Washington University.
Tuition accounts for 81 percent of AU’s income. Students pay for almost everything, from air conditioning to dry-erase markers, from the WONK campaign to, yes, Kerwin’s salary.
If AU was to instate a tuition freeze, the school would lose tens of millions of dollars. We would be sacrificing the quality of our professors, speed of construction and the vast resources in our library, just to start. Inflation is going to keep rising. If the University fails to acquire the necessary funding, students will end up suffering.
Students, instead, need to fight for a fixed tuition, which was a central message of Student Government President Emily Yu’s original campaign. With a fixed tuition, students would pay the same rate each year, regardless of inflation. But each class would have a slightly higher tuition than the year graduating before it.
This is not the final solution; it’s a compromise and a place to start. A fixed tuition would require trustees to acknowledge the high tuition and be honest with all financial expenses.
A fixed tuition could help accomplish Coalition of American University Students and SG’s first collaborative goal: transparency in the budget. Tuition freeze or not, students need to hold the University accountable.
Transparency will not be granted without accurate student representation from the two most powerful student groups on campus, CAUS and SG. SG has the official representation students need in negotiations with administration, and CAUS has enough presence to galvanize student action. But with neither group willing to work together, nothing can be accomplished. They’re blind to the fact that they are working toward the same goals: affordable education and student representation.
Collaboration is not going to happen without some changes.
First, Yu, as a key undergraduate voice on the Board of Trustees meetings, needs to advocate for students. Yu claimed that if she argues for a complete tuition freeze, the trustees will laugh and ignore her recommendations. But Yu’s job is to represent the students and, so far, the students voicing their opinions want a tuition freeze, misguided as that extreme idea might be. If SG is preemptively giving up ground because they are afraid to negotiate with the administration, they shouldn’t have been elected.
As for CAUS, the recent protests are a disappointment. CAUS began this semester as the pragmatic version of SG. Students across the board were taking them seriously because they were no longer the rowdy protesters. After last Wednesday’s protest outside Kerwin’s personal home, CAUS has dissolved back into another version of the Occupy movement. Actions speak louder than words, and banging pots and pans will not accomplish anything more than angering a few neighbors.
Today, Kerwin and Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Sine will host a town hall meeting in Ward 1. It’s imperative that students take advantage of this meeting and express their opinions on every aspect of the budget. Bypass SG and CAUS and make your voice heard.
Take tuition into your own hands, because right now we cannot count on SG or CAUS to do so.≠ E