Editorial: AU requires a culture shift from upper echelons of administration to attract further investment
The Eagle supports efforts from administrators and students leaders for further budget
If you ask the average student about tuition rates, common themes among their responses will probably focus on the yearly increases and lack of affordability. However, what is also common is that students generally don’t know why tuition continues to rise. This is because the University hasn’t done a comprehensive job of telling them. For this reason, we support student activism on further budget transparency from the Board of Trustees and have seen our job as student journalists to provide further education on the budget.
Recently, the Eagle released a multimedia project on AU’s financial future which demonstrates that if AU increases tuition by 4 percent each year — as the board voted to do in 2017 — tuition will be $113,000 per year by 2040 according to Doug Kudravetz, the University’s chief financial officer.
The project demonstrates the why behind the yearly tuition increases, but also how these increases are unsustainable. While the Board of Trustees has stated its commitment to affordability, the lapse in the financial budgeting has created and continues to create an unethical and growing environment of food-insecure, housing-insecure and financially-insecure students.
Additionally, there may be some incongruence between how students and Board of Trustees view Burwell. For the University, Burwell is a means to coaxing donors toward growing the University endowment and moving away from tuition-dependence. For many students, President Burwell was seen as a welcomed change to the previous seemingly apathetic university administration.
Given that historical relations between the Board and the student body have been less than cordial, we believe that, in the long term, Burwell’s image in the eyes of the student body may be harmed by her taking on an exclusively fundraising role. The Eagle is concerned that diversity and inclusion issues, which have been central within the past few years, might be misused as a means of obscuring real divides and wounds within the University community in favor of further donations.
At the same time, we recognize that the University budget requires solutions to moving toward solvency. Current and projected sticker prices have the potential to scare off students who might otherwise receive sufficient financial aid and succeed here at AU. The recently announced five-year strategic plan is one step forward in securing the long-term financial future of the University. It is unclear why the University budget has not had sufficient long-term financial planning beforehand.
However, The Eagle urges the University to not use the forecasted 2040 tuition price as a means of guilting donations from alumni and donors. Higher education today requires leaders willing not only to own up to mistakes, but also willing to collaborate with the student body and alumni.
While we would not go so far as to agree with Doug Kudravetz’ characterization of AU as having one of the most transparent financial processes in the country, we do appreciate current efforts by administrators and student leaders for further budget transparency.
We look forward to a culture shift at American University, one in which the University lives and abides by its own values and one in which the University becomes an institution that alumni want to donate and invest in.