Growing pains: the reasoning behind our tuition hikes

There are few things that students should expect more, yet dread less, than annual tuition hikes. In the last decade, we have seen a 122 percent increase in tuition.

Comparatively, most other Utah schools have had a lesser increase at around 100 percent. This is partly due to the transition from community college to four-year university. The increase has come to be expected each semester.

Additionally, the cost of living went up by around 25 percent. Going to school is more expensive now, no matter how it is justified or how you look at it. I have two issues as a student.

First, state spending on higher education has not increased at the same rate as our tuition. Although the state has spent, on a whole, around 25 percent more than it did a decade ago, this has only kept pace with living costs, not the extra costs students carry. Tax revenue does not increase faster than the economy grows, and the state has spent almost 15 percent of the available budget on higher education every year.

The real problem may come down to supply and demand. We are seeing an increase in students and more students that attend means more college degrees in the community, hence more resources needed for quality education. The state is handicapped in how much it can add to the already inconsistent funding every year, so the rest has to be made up by us. We’re growing faster than the economy can increase tax revenue.

The second issue deals with equality. Every state school is subsidized by tax revenue, but not every school receives the same amount. Flagship schools, such as the University of Utah, have budgets that dwarf ours. Their programs need staggering amounts of funds, so more is allocated to them than is allocated to us.

The problem is that there is no parity in the ratio of state funds to tuition. Proportionally, we are the only students in the state that are asked to put more towards our education than our state is willing to spend. Each university has a different percentage, with most schools seeing around 60 percent of funding coming from the state while 40 percent comes from the students’ tuition. As students, we pay for more towards tuition than the state pays in funding. It’s been that way for three years now. No other Utah school is in the same situation.

Neither of these problems can be solved in the near future. Tuition has been increasing across the country and there is nothing to suggest that we’ll see that change soon. Student enrollment may drop as tuition becomes unaffordable, but few, if any, of us will be here to experience it. Little will happen in the next few years as tax revenue remains low, but keeping the issue fresh in our legislators’ minds is important if we want change.

Even if state funding doesn’t keep up with tuition increases, we need to have more equality between schools. Writing the state legislature and getting involved with student groups working with them, such as the Utah Student Association, are the tools we have to correct the issue.The alternative is to sit back and complain about the higher tuition next year, and every year after that.

One Response to "Growing pains: the reasoning behind our tuition hikes"

  1. Ali   August 31, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I think our school could also be more careful with the budget too. Quite frankly I think too much of student fees is going towards funding a select few people, mainly the student government. For instance, they go on a cabin retreat every year and use student fees to pay for it. They also use it on overly expensive campaigning and promotion materials. Also I heard about 60% of student fees goes toward funding athletic departments, but are that many students really involved in pro sports? Then only 10% goes to something even athletes couldn’t do without: Student Health Services.

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