Economic protests sharpen focus on tuition burdens

by Beacon Staff • October 6, 2011

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Occupy protests sweep college campuses

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College affordability cannot be an afterthought

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Yesterday, students on various college campuses — including Northeastern University and New York University — participated in walk-outs in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations around the country.

It is fitting that efforts have begun to involve the Emerson community in the Occupy protests, because at the movement’s core are issues that matter deeply to our student body. We don’t suggest that students walk out of class and waste money they’ve already spent on their education, but we do encourage the college community to consider how the ever-rising cost of tuition impairs us as an institution.

Those of us who don’t immediately accept jobs that pay more than $250,000 per year are part of what’s been coined “the 99 percent” — those who don’t fall into the top 1 percent of earners. We will enter a job market that largely doesn’t want us. A post-graduation survey for the class of 2010 conducted by Career Services showed that a mere 45 percent of participating graduates had found employment, while nine percent had enrolled in graduate programs.

Those who were employed full-time reported salaries ranging between $25,000 and $35,000, considerably less than the cost of attending Emerson for one year. And what’s more, many of them are shouldered with crippling debt.  According to The College Board, the average Emerson student owes $17,495 at graduation.

Six-figure salaries are rarely attained overnight, but these statistics should outrage Emerson students not only because of the anemic job market, but because of annual tuition hikes and regularly insufficient financial aid.

While we appreciate the college’s plans to beef up fundraising efforts, the administration must pursue as many affordability solutions as possible. For the past two years, the cost of tuition has risen between four and five percent, with no end in sight for this constantly expanding institution.

Emerson may not be immune to the economic downturn, but each expenditure must be measured against the number of students who can’t afford to return the next semester.

Student loan debt is real, and for many, it’s devastating. Shady bank practices and uncaring loan sharks make paying for college difficult even for those who make it through four years of scraping and nail-biting from semester to semester. The financial realities of the world at large may not soon disappear, but Emerson must prioritize affordability in the face of the current economic climate.

If the administration doesn’t significantly increase financial aid, we will not witness an increase in walk-outs — rather, drop-outs.