Trustees should seriously consider SGA’s recommendations

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • March 15, 2012

At issue: 

Student government representatives make suggestions for tuition review. 

Our take: 

The Board of Trustees should keep entire student body in the loop.

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This week, our elected student leaders lobbied Emerson’s Board of Trustees with a list of 10 considerations to make while determining next year’s tuition increase. In fulfilling one of their responsibilities to the student body, SGA officials reminded trustees that the cost of attending Emerson is rising at a rate disproportionate to that of household incomes. They pointed out that some students have left the college due to financial strain. 

These facts can’t be repeated enough, but the most striking parts of the letter were hard and fast suggestions about progressive tuition freezes, expansion, and transparency.

Emerson has proven itself as a leader in communication and the arts. We boast excellent facilities and faculty who are preeminent in the fields of politics, journalism, and the liberal arts. Therefore, we agree with the SGA that Emerson should consider joining the handful of small liberal arts colleges nationwide that freeze tuition for each class based on what students pay during their freshman year. 

The SGA highlights the short gap between the date tuition is announced and the date that it’s due. While assembling the $32,128 in tuition is never easy, students on the brink of leaving the college could rest easier knowing years in advance what they’d owe at the start of each semester. Consistency would make affording Emerson an easier pill for some to swallow. 

Additionally, the letter articulates student frustration with Emerson’s rapid expansion and investment in projects that current students won’t see to fruition. They vocalize a hesitancy to spend money where our current enrollment will never reap the benefits. Among those are the estimated $70 million forthcoming renovation of the Little Building and the $85 million LA center — on the heels of the $92 million acquisition and renovation of the Paramount. Those are figures that would rightly take any cash-strapped college student aback. 

However, it’s important to keep the long game of affirming Emerson as a world-class college in perspective. Emerson is not a pop-up campus designed to benefit students during a short window of time. The college we know today was built using our predecessors’ tuition dollars. Those former students now comprise our formidable alumni network and are still proud to call Emerson “home” — as evidenced at the LA center’s groundbreaking. Frivolous spending should not be tolerated, but purchases like the president’s residence and neighboring buildings on Boylston Street are designed to fortify Emerson’s reputation into the future. 

This editorial board has lobbied tirelessly for transparency on the part of our student government representatives and administrative officials alike. Therefore, we enthusiastically support the SGA’s plea for the board of trustees to make the nuts and bolts of this year’s tuition increase available. Figures like last year’s 4.4 percent hike and $95 million seem arbitrary when they’re not properly contextualized, itemized, and explained.

“The Emerson SGA feels that it would be better equipped to make recommendations,” our president wrote, “if it were offered audited reports regarding the finances of upcoming projects as well as mission statements detailing Emerson’s plan for the future so that it may offer input.”

We can’t forget that this information ought to be accessible to every student, even though the letter only requests that the board make it available to the SGA officials. If the entire community were offered those reports, the student body would be better equipped to offer input to the leaders we charge with representing our interests — and evaluate their performance accordingly.