According to UO’s Division of Student Life, between 70 and 80 percent of college students work while in school. If you’re like me, you’re one of those students, and you aren’t necessarily working for fun. We know that the rising cost of tuition is one of many reasons why students dropout of college; some students are priced out and cannot afford to attend anymore.
Last Friday, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to increase resident tuition by 2.84 percent and nonresident tuition by 2.49 percent, despite the previous five-year dip in student enrollment. Apparently, the Tuition and Fee Advisory Board (TFAB) mentioned in a memo to the Provost of UO that there is a targeted 300-student increase in enrollment. Given the aforementioned facts about rising college costs and drop in student enrollment, even a 300-student increase in enrollment feels optimistic when we consider the fact that tuition is increasing again.
The differential tuition changes for the business school and honors college were also approved, but it should be noted that Ann Curry was the sole board member to vote against it.
Regarding the differential, President Schill defaulted to his usual justification of what the other Pac-12 schools do, in addition to his eyeball-rolling statement of how this “allows us to remain competitive.” Perhaps Schill isn’t aware that the only type of market that “remains competitive” by raising its prices are monopolistic, and UO is far from being a monopoly in education.
In 1974, UO tuition was $541 per year. In 2017 dollars, that’s $2,680.64. This increase pushes tuition for 2018-2019 to $9,765 ($270 increase) for residents and $33,345 ($810 increase) for nonresidents. For part of the group that works while in school, such an increase is almost suffocating. Especially when you factor in fees, which are currently $2,076 per year and expected to increase next year.
How Much of a Burden is it?
To be clear, tuition isn’t the only thing that is being raised. The health center fee is expected to increase by $7 per term ($21 per year). Though the EMU memo had some anticipation for an increase, TFAB stated that it would not increase. TFAB stated in that same memo that ASUO would be proposing a $12 per term incidental fee increase, which amounts to $36 per year. The Rec stated that it will not be requesting an increase in its fees. Altogether, total fees would increase from $2,076 per year to $2,133 per year. Throw in tuition, and it’s $11,898 for residents and $35,478 for nonresidents just to sit in about four classrooms per term.
For perspective, federal financial aid only covers between $5,500 to $12,500 per year in loans — depending on year in school and dependency status — plus $5,920 per year in Pell Grants if you qualify. A dependent freshman has only $5,500 available to them in loans if their parents can obtain a PLUS loan. If not, they are allowed the independent freshman loan limit of $9,500. If you’re an independent senior with a Pell Grant, you only get $18,420 per year in financial aid. After tuition and fees next year, you would be left with $6,431. That’s an average of $714.56 per month throughout the academic year, compared to $761 per month for the current academic year. This is abhorrent for the working college student who is trying to make ends meet; even the current average isn’t enough to pay for the least expensive on-campus option.
If you’re lucky enough to qualify for Work Study, that’s an additional average of $233.33 per month. $927.90 per month for the academic year ($8,351.10 annually) isn’t even enough to cover the least expensive housing option with the least expensive meal plan, which also has proposed increases. No wonder between 70 and 80 percent of college students work while in school. Without any increases in financial aid, UO is financially waterboarding us.