Something's got to give when it comes to rising tuition– Universities must reprioritize

Many of us would prefer administrators spend time finding solutions to our financial crises rather than working on their environmental action plans, sending constant COVID-19 updates, and wishing us a 'Happy Mardi Gras.'

As the cost of living for Americans increases, college students are faced with rising tuition bills that outpace the current inflation rate. To continue attending Fordham University, my peers and I are bracing to pay 3.5% to 6% more for an estimated $90,000 in tuition and fees, after already being subject to a hefty 6% increase this past year.

In recent years, college tuition has been subject to a 12% annual increase from 2010 to 2022, according to the Education Data Initiative. Considering that tuition has risen by 40% over the last 20 years, many students like myself are struggling to decide if going to college is worth the debt. 

Fordham University justified the 6 % increase this year in a campus-wide email, placing the blame on factors like inflation, which has affected utilities, insurance, supplies, and food. I can’t help but wonder if they realize how detached from reality they are.

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Instead of assisting students like myself who are struggling to budget in an already highly-inflated city, they are only making life more difficult for me and drawing my attention away from academics, instead forcing me to focus on whether the headache of going to college is worth it. 

Even before students complete college, they are forced to make tough financial decisions. One student leader at Iowa State University described how she and some peers became homeless in the summer of 2022 while classes were out of session, as a result of the rising cost of living.

Generation Z students are often forced to make concerning tradeoffs. Students should not have to choose between social activities and buying groceries for the week, or between purchasing school supplies and personal care necessities. This semester, I opted to hunt down a free digital version of a required and pricey textbook so I could afford groceries. 

When total direct expenses are tallied before aid, including tuition, fees, food, and housing, students pay $85,067 at Fordham. This number does not account for transportation costs, books and course-required materials, and other miscellaneous items, but when factored in, it brings the total cost of attendance at Fordham up to $89,575. 

These dilemmas are robbing Generation Z students of optimism and a positive outlook, which does not bode well for the future of our nation. 

As discussed by Nicholas Giordano, Campus Reform Higher Education Fellow, there was a 20% increase of Americans having “some” to “very little” confidence in higher education from 2015 to 2023. Another survey found 56% of Americans believe a four-year-degree is not worth the cost because “people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt to pay off.” 

Young men are the most skeptical, with only 39% who graduate highschool choosing to attend college, a decline of 8% since 2011 according to the Pew Research Center. The decline of young women highschool graduates attending college, from 52% to 48%, has also caused national college enrollment numbers to be down by 1.2 million people.

Meanwhile, our universities have their priorities out of order and fail to recognize this crisis. Many of us would prefer administrators spend time finding solutions to our financial crises rather than working on their environmental action plans, sending constant COVID-19 updates, and wishing us a “Happy Mardi Gras,” as Fordham has done this school year.

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Instead of needless and unchecked university spending on controversial programs and services that don’t assist students with the things that matter, universities should be spending resources caring for their students in practical ways. 

Since our first days in high school, it’s drilled into our heads that we must go to college to be successful and access the American Dream. I entered college because I have high hopes of graduating with financial freedom, skills to succeed, and enough experience to find a job. Instead, administrators kneecap me by hiking the price of college without making a college degree more valuable. Currently, I feel I’m feeding into a scam that keeps pushing the starting and finishing line further up.

At this point, students like me have two options: brace for a mountain of debt or call it quits and try to make a living without a degree. 

The only hope we have left is that colleges will either get their act together and hear our complaints or whoever is elected in 2024 will take this economic situation seriously and hold our universities accountable.