As the spring semester is wrapping up and another year is on the horizon, it should not be shocking that the Board of Trustees is raising tuition yet again. This year, the Board voted to increase tuition from $49,322 (full sticker price $64,478) to $51,400 ($69,192 in total). Recently, our campus has been undergoing many renovations; new, beautiful buildings are sprouting up all over campus. This is all part of the ten-year, $625 million construction project to “enhance students’” residential experience. The project has certainly been successful with the new Sutton Center, the McCreary Field House, and the beautiful new Maya Angelou Residence Hall among many other projects. In total, Wake has finished about $325 million dollars’ worth of construction with almost $300 million dollars left to go. With all this construction going on, it’s no surprise that tuition is going up; however, with all the donations from alumni and the “Wake Will Lead” campaign, it seems like we could cut some costs elsewhere to avoid making it harder for everyone to afford the steadily-rising tuition.
Further, as tuition and fees are increasing, more university and donor money is going to fund scholarships for the ever-growing number of marginalized groups. Recently, a scholarship fund was started for LGBTQ+ students. One might wonder why exactly it is necessary to set up such a scholarship fund, but it is there anyway. And we are all paying for it.
We wouldn’t need so many scholarship funds if tuition were lower because more people could afford tuition on their own. With a moderate tuition rate, Wake could attract more students from the large middle class.
Another reason tuition is increasing is to fill the deep pockets of our university administrators. The Nonprofit Quarterly online magazine published a report in 2013 listing some of the highest paid university administrators in the country, and our own President Nathan O. Hatch ranked in at number eleven on the list, making $1,458,499 in the year of the report.
Hatch does some important work overseeing our beautiful, well-ranked university; however, this huge salary seems somewhat excessive for the CEO of a nonprofit institution dedicated Pro Humanitate.
Unfortunately, this rise in tuition is not exclusive to Wake Forest. Our brothers and sisters at Duke University will be paying 3.8 percent more. College tuition is rising all over the nation, and universities cannot take all the blame.
Much of the blame for rising tuition is a result of well-intentioned lawmakers in Washington. An article written in 2011 from U.S. News explains that thanks to federal student aid, students can take out large loans to pay for their education; however, because these loans are so large, colleges can charge even higher tuition and fees because they know they will be paid back by the government no matter what. In 1987, Bill Bennett, the Secretary of Education at that time wrote in a column, “increases in financial aid in recent years have enabled colleges and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase.” Further, an article in The New York Times claims “the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education.” While federal loans are helpful and necessary for many students, they are actually one of the causes of increasing tuition costs.
There may not be an easy solution to this complex problem, but raising tuition for all students is an unsatisfactory response. The Board of Trustees must focus on priorities to improve our education, and not raise tuition simply to fund their social justice projects. I speak on behalf of my peers when I say that I expect to see positive results next year with all money this school is getting. How about free printing to start?