Saturday, December 11, 2010

How Much Should College Tuition Be?

Lately it feels like The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that was supposed to have invested heavily in education both as a way to provide jobs now and lay the foundation for long-term prosperity, isn’t really working out for California College students.

Recently, all 23 California State University campuses have been burdened with the news of receiving a 15.5 percent jump in tuition (5 percent for the spring 2011 semester and another 10 percent for the fall), after CSU officials approved the increase to compensate for state budget shortfalls.

The increase in tuition will result in the average undergraduate student paying $654 more for an annual cost of $4,884 in 2011-2012. The raise in tuition is said to add an additional $175 million annually to the CSU system.

A third of that revenue is planned to be set aside for financial aid. But when college tuition has already proved itself to be unaffordable for students in the first place, why did the California State University Board of Trustees approve the fee hike for all CSU campuses?

At times, it really seems as though college students are being deterred from graduating our universities. Despite expanded federal aid including tax credits, veterans' benefits, and a record expansion of the Pell Grant program for low-income students, college affordability still appears unattainable.

As tuition has crept higher over the years, federal aid has actually lowered. The maximum Pell Grant covers just 34 percent of the average cost of attending a public four-year college, which has gone down from 45 percent two decades ago causing students to either apply for school loans or shell tuition out of their own pockets.

The only students who seem to be okay with the rate they pay for their tuition are some illegal immigrants.

The Supreme Court of California have recently made the decision to uphold AB 540, also known as the DREAM Act, a state law allowing students who attend high school in California for at least three years and graduate to pay in-state tuition at California public colleges and universities. This includes non-residents and some undocumented immigrants.

There has already been a decline in the number of American students who are refusing to pay out-of-state tuition and instead going to college closer to home. The decrease in students paying out of state tuition has reduced the number of applicants that are admitted and has in return added to the need for the raise in tuition for everyone else. Having illegal immigrants paying in-state-tuition currently only further hurts the UC and CSU budget crisis.

The problem is not that these undocumented immigrants are attending California universities, but it is that they are rewarded by paying in-state-tuition while legal citizens who want to go to school in a different state or country are mandated to pay out-of-state tuition.

I do believe that education should be available to everyone. On average, college degree holders earn more and have a better chance at getting hired for various positions. But I also am aware of the budget crisis that we have for our colleges and universities. And though it may sound cruel, I don’t think it’s fair that tuition for legal U.S. students keeps rising while illegal students get to pay less than other equally hard working students who are coming elsewhere to earn a college education.

Originally posted on So Educated.

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