Give Me Education, or Give Me Debt!

Cody Black, Jacob Domayer, Sidi Mocktar-Toure, Alan Weedman

For many students, paying tuition in college is quite stressful. The increase in tuition has
been a recent issue with universities nationally, ultimately leaving students after graduation on a mountain of debt. With tuition on the rise, this study shows why Nebraskan collegiate tuition is being increased and where the money is ending up. Here at UNO, we have seen many spectacular projects to benefit the school, for example, the Baxter Arena. This new arena/event center generates enormous amounts of revenue for the University and for Omaha as well. However, the budget issue and the question itself of tuition inflation, is absurd.
This study will use information from the Omaha World Herald, University documents and supplemental data to show what are the causes and effects of the tuition increase. We used the University of Nebraska’s website for all Gateway publications as well as using the Omaha World Herald’s website to find online articles. As a group, we gathered whatever seemed fitting to our project and incorporated it into our paper.
One of the major influences, and probably the biggest influence, of this budget deficit and the subsequent increase, is the economy. The primary reason that this increase happened is because of a $50 billion shortfall in the state budget since 2013. Ever since the recession of 2007-08, every state had to cut back on all fronts. To make up for this, there was a small tuition increase of $300 in 2017. At the time of this article, “there was a supposed $600-$700 increase in 2018” (UNO Gateway-Tuition Freeze). There has not been much more talk of that as of yet. Some other ways that the universities can make back some extra funds would be to cut the bureaucracy of the whole situation. In a report on budgeting from West Virginia in 2003 stated that “by cancelling some bureaucratic expenditures such as holiday parties for the governor, the state was able to withdraw some previously implemented cuts” (Doughtery, Michael). Although there was a shortfall, receipts came in shorter than expected, which is good news for the state budget. This was the result of corporate taxes generating more revenue than expected. This subsequently allowed the Nebraska universities to put a tuition freeze in place for 2 years.
One reason the whole tuition question has been so difficult is because of state
appropriations for education. State appropriations are the primary funding of scholarships and financial aid. According to Rajindar Koshal, “college tuition depends on state appropriation” (Koshal). 80% of the appropriations are going to students. That shows us that the state of Nebraska cares about the future generation. Growth of the economy depends on education. Nebraskan universities received less money, however, this past year: approximately $13 million less than previous years. This cut is not detrimental though. It will save an estimated $5 million in the 2017/18 school year and an outrageous $22 million in the 2019/20 school year. Tuition will increase 5% for the 2017-2018 school year and 3.2% the following year. The only way to overcome this budget issue is to hopefully, meet the budget targets for 2018 and 2019. Doing this
will at least give us a surplus to stop the increase.
    History of Budget
In retrospect, tuition has increased over the past decade or so. It has not been a large
growth, but a slow one. Tuition saw the largest expanse in 2016. Along with the tuition increase, the student body has also grown. Tuition rose in response, but for understandable reasons. When you have a certain amount of resources to allot for a particular party (in this case, the resources being power, food, supplies, et cetera; and the party being students). So, when you increase the student body, you have to increase your power bill, fees, and more which make it quite expensive to run the university system. As with any business, it is hard to stay afloat when your wallet is empty.
    Community Influence
Not only does the tuition increase have an impact on the students, but there have been
some growing impacts affecting the overall community of UNO as well. College has turned into more of a luxury over the past few years. It has become, financially, not feasible for a large portion of people. Unless you have the money readily available or get really lucky with financial aid, college doesn’t really seem worth it. The only other option to that is to take out a massive amount in student loans and hope that you luck out with a decent interest rate. All five Nebraska collegiate schools have seen a 3.7% increase in tuition per credit, now having to pay $196.75 for each credit you wish to take. That increase leads to a new adage of $55.50 on to their semester bill, assuming the student is taking 15 credit hours. Over the course of an average 4 years, that is an extra $444 the student has to fret over. While not sounding too detrimental, it does not
account for books, supplies, fees, and not to mention parking. UNO is a very large community driven school and they want to continue to do what they can for its community, but increasing tuition would not be a smart move. That is why Senator Boltz wants to work better with her committee and the university so that they can come up with ways to keep tuition low and education high. One of the ideas was to implement a tuition freeze, or at least keep tuition around the same price, which the Nebraska school system has been very fortunate that it can keep the prices stagnate.
     Student Perspective
Tuition increase has an impact on students as well. Students argued that it would
discourage them to get a solid 4 years education, which is the whole reason why they are here in school. According to UNO Gateway-Tuition freeze, tuition is expected to increase up to $600-1100 in 2018. It could affect NE sports especially, forcing out of state athletes to stay home because of the tuition hike. The cost for out of state students is significantly higher than native Nebraskans. One possible major effect of the tuition increase is the axing of certain disciplines.  UNK has already decided to merge their Natural Sciences and Fine Arts Colleges into one College of Arts and Sciences. A lot of disciplines will no longer be available for the school because of the cut. College, as well, is one of the most foundational moments of a young person’s life. According to our textbook, “It is in this period that the student’s worldview is, it is hoped, expanded” (OpenStax: Intro to Education PG 2). The student perspective is of monumental importance and the schools need to take it into account. School leaders must reevaluate their decision to increase the tuition.
At some point, students who can’t afford to pay accordingly will drop from school. The
only alternative left for students will be the loans to cope with the increase. Inevitably, students will have their degree, but will have a much larger burden from student loans. Graduation is supposed to be a time of celebration and relief. For some, however, the celebration is minuscule and is outweighed by the looming giant of debt. Overall, students are disappointed with the increase. Actions have to be taken to avoid when students start to view education as an institution that want to profit from their time spent at the institution. The first function of schooling is to give students good experiences and necessary knowledge to face the future challenges of life. Increasing tuition is not a good strategy to increase attendance. When money
becomes an issue, many students would rather prefer to drop out from school.
It was President Truman who said in 1947 “college is no longer a source for the elite, it’s
a tool for the advancement of the common man” (Sullivan, Patrick). The tuition increase has been a problem for many Nebraskan students who wonder if college is even a feasible option.  Economically the NU school board is looking for a 5% increase for the 2017-2018 year and a 3.2% tuition increase the following year, ultimately urging many students to think that college is more of a luxury with loans and debts in their futures. This would also decrease the amount of out of state students wanting to come to UNO for an affordable out of state experience. Overall when money becomes an issue for education students that are unable to pay would rather drop out then finish a 4 year education by taking out loans and putting themselves in economic trouble
when they graduate. The university system here in Nebraska is perhaps the most crucial tool the state can use for prosperity and advancement. Here in Omaha, the community built around the university has blossomed into one that is unmatched state-wide. Former students here are working in local banks, offices, architecture firms, and much more. It is important for the university to keep churning out productive members of society. If we sacrifice Nebraskan education, what else will be next?
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