Tuition increases, students’ reaction mixed

By LauraNalin

As reported by The Chronicle on March 15, Columbia will increase tuition and fees by 3.3 percent for undergraduate students and 5 percent for graduate students for the 2010-2011 academic year. The college plans to allocate 2 percent of the generated revenue into the scholarship pool for the new scholarship initiative to aid incoming students.

Each year the college’s administration undergoes an analysis by Mike DeSalle, chief financial advisor and vice president of the college’s Business Affairs, in order to decide what they need to alter for the upcoming academic year.  Throughout the past five years, the college has kept its increases below 5 percent, which kept the increases below the national averages.

Paul Fain, senior reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education, said the increases are low when compared to other private institutions and did not think it would severely impact students.

“A 3.3 percent increase is pretty low,” Fain said. “It’s a tough year for colleges to decide how to set tuition and it’s never easy for students to pay anything more, but that’s fairly modest in today’s environment.”

Fain added that across the country, new scholarship initiatives are a result of tuition increases, and Columbia’s proposal is highly beneficial for its students.

Joseph Koch, sophomore illustration major, said he feels as though the new scholarship is unfair to students paying their way through college.

“I transferred here, so I never got a chance to get those scholarships to begin with,” Koch said. “It’s difficult to pay for school; I’m a little bit older than most students that start here, so I live on my own and I pay my own way. I don’t get help from parents, so all of the money I put in is for my education and if I’m funding someone else’s education while simultaneously putting myself in debt, I don’t know if that’s right.”

Brittney Hortman, junior sports management major, said she also feels the increases are excessive.

“I feel like it’s unfair to students already,” Hortman said. “It’s already outrageous. I also think we don’t get enough financial aid at this school, so for students to have it raised more is not a good thing.  We’re in a recession.”

Hortman added that she liked the idea of the scholarship initiative, but didn’t think the money should come from tuition increases.

“Scholarships are always good for students,” Hortman said. “But at the same time, I don’t think they should raise tuition to grant students scholarships.”

Some students said they don’t see the need to raise the tuition in order to better the college’s scholarship program.

Ariel Sadok, sophomore film major, said he feels discouraged about the increases.

“I feel a little bit bummed,” Sadok said. “We are paying a lot. Scholarships are nice, so I don’t see a problem with that. But what’s the other percentage going to? [The increase] is kind of stupid. Why would you raise the cost of going here and then give it for scholarships? It’s kind of ironic, like, ‘Oh, let’s raise it so we can give them money back.’ I just don’t see the point.”

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, said he has no doubt that students are concerned about the tuition, but that students took precedence over the tuition increase by implementing the new scholarship initiative.

“These are difficult times,” Kelly said. “This is why the actual impact on students is about 1 percent. What the college is doing is so dramatically increasing the scholarship pool. I think we’re going to have in that effect maybe one of the lowest tuition increases of a private college in the area if not the country.”

Journalism students Evan Darst, junior magazine writing concentration, and Etheria Modacre, sophomore news reporting and writing concentration, said they like the idea of the scholarship plan,but would like to see some changes to the criteria in which the students are awarded them.

“If the scholarships made available to low income students with high GPA, like myself,  I’d be for it, but that’s a selfish way to look at it,” Darst said. “I’m paying for school myself so I get plenty of help from FAFSA, so I wouldn’t mind if a few extra thousand dollars were going to help someone that needed it, but I’m sure I’m of a minority that feels that way.”

Modacre had a different opinion.

“I think the scholarships should go to people who actually need it, but don’t have high GPA,” Modacre said. “I think minimum here is 3.0, but if someone actually needs it that has 2.8 it should go to them. I’m also low income and I have high GPA, but I’d rather see the money go to someone who actually needs it.”

Some students said they think the tuition increase is harmful to students who are unable to pay for the college as it is.

Teshon Farr, a freshman musical theater major, said she feels as though the increase in tuition is unfair to the student body.

“I’ve had a lot of friends leave this school because they couldn’t afford it,” Farr said. “It’s unfortunate to see really talented people have to leave for financial reasons. The scholarship is decent because more students will be affected, but I don’t like the idea of a tuition increase.”

Charlie Minoso, junior public relations  major, has had similar experiences with his friends leaving due to financial woes.

“I understand that every year it gets raised, and that’s the way money works,” Minoso said. “But it sucks because I have so many friends unable to come back because of financial reasons. I know people that have had to move home across the country and couldn’t come back because of financial reasons. It’s unfortunate, but what they are doing with the money for the scholarships is a responsible and effective way of utilizing the money they would be making. It’s also good that we aren’t going to see a huge spike in tuition, but any increases aren’t necessarily appreciated by the student body.”

Kelly said he and the administration know students want to attend Columbia, but may find it difficult to afford the costs.

“The pressures are real,” Kelly said. “That’s why we made this decision. We are incredibly aware in our decision that our No. 1 priority was student affordability. But that doesn’t mean every individual student is going to feel that way. If you don’t get every one of those scholarships and you’re struggling, that’s something that is real and something we’re

concerned with.”