Op/Ed: Tuition freeze starts fight for affordable education
by Sophia Miyoshi
In 15 years, at the current 3.8 percent increase, AU’s tuition will be $65,709 annually, not including room and board.
Colleges across the country are increasing at about the same rate. To many of us, the high and rising costs of tuition seem normal. My own acceptance of high prices and loans stopped me from looking critically at the bigger picture. When the student debt bubble reached $1 trillion, I began to do some research.
I came to a simple conclusion: the current system of financial aid and student loans is not sufficient. Students who are unable to pay $50,000 out of pocket and do not receive adequate aid or scholarships are forced to take out massive loans with high interest rates. Instead of helping students invest in their future, loans leave us tainted by debt and bad credit.
Altering the loan and financial aid system could be a solution to the debt crisis. However, there is another route. The Coalition of AU Students started a campaign asking for a tuition freeze at AU. This means that the hikes in our tuition would cease to exist in the budgetary cycle over the next two academic years. A freeze may sound like it won’t change much, but this initial push against tuition is vital.
Students are the consumers of our commoditized education, yet we are not informed exactly where our money is spent. At this “nonprofit” university, our increasing tuition should go toward improving education. With the cuts in some degree programs, such as humanities courses which are valued by many students, I get the feeling that AU’s prestige is a priority over our actual education. Our money is being spent on expensive building projects and advertising campaigns, all while adjuncts’ salaries suffer and our intellectual needs are ignored. The administration can argue all it wants, but students still have no power to check the administration’s decisions. If the administration refuses to tell us exactly where the $260 million of our tuition money goes, why should we continue to pay it?
An even more urgent reason for a tuition freeze is the increasing inaccessibility to higher education. Tuition is rising and financial aid doesn’t have the time or money to catch up. Right now, about half of the student body does not receive any form of financial aid, and 60 percent graduate in debt, according to collegedata.com. This means that 40 percent of the students can easily access an AU education and 60 percent need more money than financial aid can provide. Education is supposed to be a right for everyone, yet it is already extremely inaccessible. By passively accepting the constant increases, higher education will soon only be available to the most privileged class.
It is hard to break away from the beliefs that high and rising tuition is normal and cannot change. Most of us live in the bubble our expensive college has provided. We must break that bubble and realize that everything is not OK.
We cannot continue to ignore these problems just because the solutions seem out of our reach. Right now, there is something we can do about the tuition hikes. This is our university, our money and our education. Together we can reclaim it, but we need your help.
Sophia Miyoshi is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.