President Mark E. Ojakian of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system has recently decided on an increase in tuition. Because of this, tuition for the 2016-2017 school year is expected to increase by 5.0% at Western, Southern, Eastern and Central Connecticut State Universities, and by 3.5% at community colleges. At Western, the increase means students will have to pay an extra $480 per year.
I find this frustrating because President Ojakian has previously said that the system’s budget will “not be balanced on the backs of our students.” However, he actually is putting it on the backs of the students…because who else is going to pay it?
Students like myself who choose to attend state schools within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system do so for mainly one reason: they are the most affordable option for furthering our education. However, as we have watched the cost of tuition and fees increase by almost 50% in the last 6 years, it is obvious that this will not be the case for students too much longer. Yes, $480 may not be a significant of money to some students; but to others, it could be the deciding factor of whether or not a college education is in their cards.
His given reason for the decision to increase tuition is the fact that the State of Connecticut is experiencing a budget deficit of almost $1 billion dollars, which then causes the CSCU system to experience a cut of $26 million. President Ojakian stated that deciding against tuition increases would have led to elimination of many student service functions, and “it would have really meant destruction of the high quality of higher education that we currently afford our students.” However, I can’t help but wonder exactly which services he’s talking about. He says, for example, that libraries would have shorter hours and some classes would not continue to be offered, yet I can’t help but want specifics. Perhaps they are library services and extra classes that we students are willing to sacrifice in order to save ourselves money on tuition.
President Ojakian said he believes the increase is “a fair and responsible decision given our current economic reality.” However, I can’t help but feel the opposite. I don’t see what is fair about forcing students to hand more money over to the CSCU system in order to make up for the lack of funding due to the State’s financial crunch.
Continuously raising tuition is not fair because students are already struggling to stay afloat financially between a variety of things at our age such as rent, insurance, gas prices, and textbooks. Also, majority of students have mediocre jobs because of the very fact that we still are students. We are in a period of our lives where our time and energy should be exerted into our studies, rather than into full time hours at work or second jobs necessary to meet the financial demands of our education.
Yes, there is financial aid offered to those who need it, though in some cases, it is possible that sufficient financial aid may not be awarded. On the other hand, ironically, financial aid can be seen as having led to a rising deficit, which then leads to a rise in tuition as a means of balance. Besides, it is difficult for the typical student enrolled in the CSCU system to even rationalize paying more for an education that is increasingly becoming more commonplace in the job market. The price of our education is rising but the value is unfortunately not rising along with it. As President Ojakian has stated, a hiring freeze has been put into effect and no new professors are being considered. One may argue that it is important for a university to have the ability to hire educators who can bring fresh ideas, courses, and insight to the table.
John Board, a political science major at Western Connecticut State University and former Senator of the Student Government Association, seems to share my frustration in President Ojakian’s decision. He also points out the fact that the decision was made during a time when students would not be paying much attention to the matter. “I am extremely frustrated, but not surprised that President Ojakian would propose an increase while students are away on spring break…” he said, “The best way to govern is in a transparent and open way.”
I am not trying to attack President Ojakian and I am not blaming him for the State’s failure to provide students with a truly affordable education. I just don’t understand how he could acknowledge the idea that the budget cut shouldn’t become the problem of Connecticut’s young college generation, yet his decision to raise our tuition does not reflect that idea. As a working college student who will have debt to face upon graduation next month, I cannot help but feel disappointed for returning students who will be affected by the upcoming tuition increase. My fellow CSCU students and I may not know what the proper solution to the deficit may be, but it isn’t our job to know. More importantly, I do not believe that the solution lies in the wallets of the State’s young college generation.