Grad tuition hike should benefit programs

By Lauren Kelly

At the last College Council meeting of the semester on Dec. 4, administrators and faculty members discussed the possibility of raising graduate tuition at Columbia by 5 percent in 2011.

Graduate tuition is currently lower than undergraduate tuition and is also lower than graduate tuition at peer institutions. Louise Love, vice president for Academic Affairs, said Columbia’s graduate programs are currently “underpriced.”

According to the admissions office, it costs $651 per credit hour for the general graduate program. The undergraduate cost is between $577 and $770, depending on how many credit hours the student is taking.

Also, graduate students do not pay instructional resource fees like undergraduates. Depending on what classes the undergraduate student takes, instructional resource fees can add as much as a few hundred dollars to their final tuition bill.

The Chronicle’s Editorial Board does not oppose raising graduate tuition, but any increase should be for the right reasons. The increase is understandable if the college can’t cover the costs of the graduate program and tuition needs to be higher, especially given the current economic climate. But hiking prices just to be compared with those at other schools won’t benefit students in the long run.

Any increase in student tuition should be put toward student programs. If the college can make sure the increases will improve the graduate programs, tuition should be raised. But as it stands, if tuition were to be raised, the extra money would go toward the college’s general revenue fund, not individual graduate programs.

Investing money in the graduate programs will increase the quality from the bottom up, as opposed to raising the price generally and hoping the quality of the programs will be improved from the top down. It is inadvisable to hope for a trickle-down effect.