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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

Concerning tuition

By Colin Halverson
Contributing Writer
and Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, March 3, 2006

Since 2002, the comprehensive fee for a student to attend St. Olaf has increased at an average rate of 7.2 percent a year – stemming from figures like $28,500 in 2003, $30,950 in 2004, and $32,800 in 2005; the brand-new $35,600 seems like a slap in the face, and the pocketbook.

This accounts for a $7,100 change since next year’s seniors were first years, and, if this trend continues, the incoming students of 2009 will be seeing a red figure of $38,163 (and by 2020, it will be $81,995; we are not having kids).

It is understandable why the comprehensive fee would increase over time; it makes sense with rising energy costs, higher standards for education and a getting-better-but-still-not-so-great endowment. But, it still just doesn’t seem fair.

For a school that prides itself on a close, personal connection with each student, it seems almost callous that we were informed of such a weighty issue so abruptly, and with only a note in our P.O. boxes. Granted, it would be a little unreasonable to have a school assembly to break the news, but we would have appreciated something a bit more graceful, like a fruit basket: “Hey! Tuition is going up, here’s a pomegranate!”

But, all that we were told in our letter was: “Tuition is going up and we’re sorry.” Nothing like, “Tuition is going up, here are your options, let’s work together to get through this inconvenience. We are here to help.”

The shock of this news has many students believing that some of their peers may not return next year due to the increase, but actually, a portion of the increase will be absorbed by either state loans or financial aid – if you have them. Although many students would like to think of the administration as the big bad wolf, it turns out that the Office of Financial Aid is actually very helpful.

According to Director of Financial Aid Kathy Ruby, when financial aid is renewed for students next year, the additional cost of the comprehensive fee will be taken into consideration.

“A portion will be covered,” Ruby said. “How much of that will vary from student to student. The needier you are, the less you will feel the increase. We are still committed to meeting the full need of students who do need it.”

That is an encouraging thought.

And there is more. Each student and his or her family will feel this increase differently. For instance, on average, those who are currently receiving Minnesota State Grants will see an increase of at least $124 next year, which will soften the blow a little.

However, Financial Aid’s assistance still does not fix the situation entirely.

Tuition rates are increasing at colleges and universities around the country, and St. Olaf cannot escape the same fate. Unless the college ameliorates the situation, it shouldn’t expect students to give back after graduation. The administration must decide which is more important: cheaper tuition and an increased motivation to donate, or higher tuition and bitter alumni.

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