Proposal would stem the rise in tuition

by Beacon Staff • February 2, 2006

,For the many students seeking financial aid to assist in the rising cost of a college education, help may be on the way. A new congressional bill aiming to keep tuition increases on par with inflation might help ease students' monetary burdens.

The College Access and Opportunity Act, a congressional bill backed by Representatives John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), would prevent colleges from raising tuition costs at a rate greater than inflation, according to the Committee of Education and the Workforce Web site.

Although the inflation rate rose about 3 percent between 2004 and 2005, according to Beacon calculations based on data obtained from the Federal Government's Inflation Calculator, tuition at Emerson and many other area schools climbed at a greater rate.

Currently, students pay $24,064 a year, or $752 per credit, to attend Emerson College classes on a full-time basis, according to Associate Vice President of Student Administrative Services Dan Pinch.

Last year, Emerson students paid $22,976, or $718 per credit. The Beacon calculated this increase to be about 4.7 percent.

Pinch said that many factors contribute to the rising tuition rate at Emerson. He said operational costs, such as heating and building expenses, the maintenance of intensive technological facilities such as television studios and faculty and staff salaries, contribute to the percentage increase of the tuition cost each year.

"It's always a challenge to provide the best resources for our students at a reasonable price," Pinch said.

Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen said he doesn't think the bill will come to pass as is, in part because of the costs of maintaining the equipment and services Pinch mentioned.

"The cost of running a college year to year increases more than the rate of inflation." Rosen said.

In addition to funding operational costs, The Emerson College Board of Trustees also looks at the tuition costs of similar schools.

These tuition rates at competitor schools such as New York University, Ithaca College, Boston University and Syracuse University, help determine Emerson's tuition increase, according to Pinch.

"There is a moderate tuition increase between our competitors," Rosen said. "The tuition rate at Emerson is lower than competitors."

According to the data compiled from the respective school's financial advisors or Web sites, The Beacon calculated that the tuition at Boston University rose 5.1 percent, New York University's tuition climbed 5 percent, and Ithaca College's tuition jumped 6.3 percent between 2004 and 2005.

Rosen, who said he had not heard of the bill, said he also believes that it will not pass because while the inflation rate is national, other factors differ from institution to institution.

"There are different living costs in each area," Rosen said. "There is pressure to raise the tuition because of the living cost in Boston."

Sean McDonough, a freshman TV/video major, said he believes the bill would help students who may struggle to pay for a college education. He said he also thinks there is a need to change tuition policy on a greater scale.

"I think there should be a fixed rate and that all students should keep paying the same rate since their enrollment," McDonough said.

Lauren Hamatay, a freshman writing literature and publishing major who transferred to Emerson from the University of Massachusetts Boston this semester, also backs the bill but said she thinks Emerson's current tuition is fair.

"I believe you do get your money's worth," Hamatay said. "I can tell the difference in the facilities compared to my old school. The classrooms and the cafeteria are nicer."

While Pinch said he agrees with the principle of keeping schools from overcharging, he does not see the consensus needed for the congressional bill to pass.

If the bill were to go through, Pinch stated that he is fairly confident that Emerson would not get penalized for raising their tuition costs because their percentage increases have always been close to the inflation rate, around 3 to 4 percent.

The Emerson Board of Trustees will announce an updated tuition cost for the 2006-2007 school year at the end of March.