Going to college is such a unique experience that no other experience can quite simulate. More people are getting college degrees, therefore more people are getting to experience this formative, unique experience.
Yet there is a major burden on the back of current college students and college graduates. The burden is… debt. The cost of getting a degree has inflated exponentially over the past couple of decades. More and more students and families are having to deal with the crippling debt that comes with higher education. The need of a college degree is on the rise, student debt is on the rise, and tuition increase is on the rise, even at state schools.
UMass Lowell in particular has seen about $7,000 increase in tuition in less than a decade. But UMass Lowell is a state school, and state schools are known to supposedly be the affordable route for higher education. So, as expected, many students are not happy about the tuition increase.
Samuel Fredericksen, a chemical engineering major, says that he feels like is getting the best education UMass Lowell has to offer. When it came to tuition, Fredericksen had another opinion. “There is no question, tuition is increasing exponentially with no added value [to students],” said Fredrickson.
Ryan Callahan, a political science major with a legal studies minor, has a similar opinion: “Tuition keeps going up. [Schools] seem to take every opportunity they can to take your money.” Callahan said he was also very happy with education he is getting from UMass Lowell, but he could not understand why the tuition was increasing.
Steven O’Riordan, the associate vice chancellor for Financial Services, had the answers, as his job is to oversee campus budget and financial planning.
When it came to why tuition was increasing so much, O’Riordan said, “The key contributor to student tuition going up is lack of state funding. The budget has been cut from 35-25, the largest part that is growing this year is student tuition. But we have to make sure we keep quality. The benefits are that we don’t let anything quality drop [from our school]. We have also been offering new classes and new staff.”
In response to why the state was cutting funding, O’Riordan said, “We can’t rely on the state to give us funding since the state is slashing the funding. All we can do is keep working hard for the services. The states have a number of challenges that they have to deal with every year, rising health care costs, crumbling infrastructure, social services to the people who need it, investing from K-12 education. The state feels like college costs can increase. Our campus has grown 50 percent as well since 2008, we need more police, more faculty, mental help needs services, disability services, these all have a cost. Tuition has to increase to keep up with these costs.”
UMass Lowell’s very own student trustee, senior Malinda Reed, also had opinions on the matter. Reed said she thinks that in general UMass Lowell is an affordable school. In regard to the tuition increase, she said, “It’s not ideal. I don’t think anyone in the university wants to do that. We aren’t getting enough help from the state. A majority of our funding is supposed to come from the state, but we aren’t getting adequate state support to maintain what we have, or to even develop and improve upon this school.”
There is no question as to whether higher education is expensive and getting more expensive, but it is now clear that it is always in the hands of the university. Costs to attend UMass Lowell are going up because state funding is going down. Yet students are not helpless. Reed said there are many ways they can combat the cost of tuition increase.
“Advocating at the state level for more funding. For example, I for the past three years have attended Advocacy Day, an annual event at the state house run by the non-profit, Phenom. Students from across Massachusetts gather at the state house and meet with their legislatures to advocate the importance of state funding for public higher education. Another important event is the UMass Impact Reception. Another student advocacy event organized by the student trustees in collaboration with the UMass President’s office… At this event legislatures can hear from students directly how funding impacts student families. They also emphasize the economic impact that the UMass system has on the common wealth. The message being sent is that legislatures should fund higher education, an investment,” said Reed.