A proposal for fairer tuition

by Beacon Staff • March 4, 2009

Thirty years ago, my mother worked two jobs, lived at home and commuted by train two hours a day to afford the college of her dreams. Today, I sit on the T and wonder if her story would still be possible. The cost of college is rapidly increasing, and student loans, grants and scholarships just aren't keeping up. Those who do manage to pay for school often sink tens of thousands of dollars into debt.

College affordability is a universal problem, but when they meet in two weeks, I hope Emerson College's Board of Trustees will make the responsible decision: not increasing tuition for the 2009-2010 school year. Tightening private student loan practices combined with layoffs of both students and their parents make Emerson's tuition more painful than ever. The college must act to ensure that many of its hardworking and talented students don't have to transfer next fall.

Emerson has been expanding rapidly in recent years, from the Los Angeles Center to the new gymnasium and the Paramount and Colonial buildings. But as the college makes itself more desirable to future students, Emerson must not lose sight of its current students-the ones now struggling to cover the burden of these projects. Tuition has increased over 15 percent from Sept. 2006, when the class of 2010 started at Emerson, significantly exceeding inflation over the same period. Another raise in tuition may allow for exciting new spending, but according to President Jacqueline Liebergott, Emerson is more than financially stable. This is a time to place affordability first on the agenda.

Emerson should be up front with its students regarding tuition costs instead of announcing increases in mid-March, which leaves students scrambling for funds-or for another school. I'll never forget helping my best friend pack as rising tuition forced her to leave the school she loved so much.

I urge the Board of Trustees to commit to a tuition cost guarantee: stating to incoming students the amount tuition would increase over the next four years. This would allow students to plan accordingly and make sure they can afford four years at Emerson. Large expansion projects and spending decisions are lengthily discussed and planned far into the future, so tuition increases shouldn't be an annual surprise.

Students aren't whining about this problem; they're filling out loan and grant applications, budgeting their finances and taking on part-time jobs. But these days, such efforts aren't always enough. Hard work should be recognized, and college should be affordable. Thirty years ago, my mother managed to put herself through school by giving it everything she had. And today, my classmates are doing the same.

I hope that the Board of Trustees will help keep that opportunity alive for all Emerson students by not increasing tuition for the 2009-2010 school year, and by adopting a tuition system that is fair to students. We commit to Emerson. Now we're asking for a little commitment in return.

iScott Fisher is a junior political communication maor and president of the Student Government Association./i