Editor’s Note: Tuition increase warrants more sincere communication

By Megan Bennett, Editor-in-Chief

Continuing its years-long trend, Columbia’s tuition will increase for the 2017-2018 academic year, as reported on the Front Page.

According to President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim’s Nov. 15 email sent to returning undergraduates, tuition for full-time students will increase by 4 percent—$990—making the total $25,580 per year.  A technology fee of $150 was also added for full-time students and U-Pass prices are currently being determined. The rising tuition follows the 4 percent increase announced in the Spring 2016 Semester for Academic Year 2016-2017. 

Though the email had some additional information about why the college decided to increase tuition, some situations mandate more communication. In a time of financial uncertainty, students need to hear their sacrifices are valued and worth it, especially for those students who will not reap the benefits from most changes made with the new finances. The email did not include these necessary explanations; neither did one from Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Wolf.

As reported on the Front Page, Wolf said in a Nov. 17 statement that the reason for the increase is as the college looks to help students, it needs capital for upcoming projects like digital learning, Getz Theatre and classroom renovations and “other new and improved learning experiences.”

“We attempt to balance the pressures all families feel from the cost of higher education with the need to invest in Columbia’s greatest asset—its students,” Wolf said in his statement after declining an interview. “Students will have more tools, experience and support to reach their goals, and the college will have the opportunity to reinforce its unique presence in higher education.”

The students Wolf is referring to are incoming students, not necessarily the ones who are already here. Future students are the ones who will benefit from major projects that will take years to complete or perfect—besides the technology updates. If the college had steady enrollment, these projects would likely not mandate tuition changes. But unfortunately, his statement does not acknowledge why students enrolled today should be content with paying for them.

Kim’s email, an announcement that the college News Office said would be his only comment as of press time in addition to declining an interview, briefly touches on ensuring that the Columbia experience remains unharmed in an era of dwindling resources.

“The trustees and I, along with the rest of the college’s senior administrative leadership, remain committed to using student tuition dollars wisely and responsibly to improve the quality and fully realize the value of a Columbia education,” the Nov. 15 email stated.

This only scratches the surface of what the announcement should include. It didn’t say why current students, who are potentially questioning the current value of a Columbia experience, should not go to a less expensive institution—or stay in school in general. Remaining in school may be in doubt for students, especially those who are now without Monetary Award Program grants from the state because of the ongoing budget impasse in effect since 2015, making state residents’ ability to afford college even more difficult.

Columbia had more than 1,800 MAP grant recipients in 2015-2016, whose grants were funded retroactively by the college. However, the college could not afford to continue paying in 2016-2017, as reported April 4 by The Chronicle.

Tuition increases are often necessary  to combat budget deficits, and the college administration should not necessarily be condemned for making that decision, as they know the effects it can have on enrollment. However, students also need to properly hear why they should continue at Columbia when they are most affected by situations out of their control—situations they are trusting their college to fix.