Categorized | State Side

Tuition Blues

You reach into the overflowing bowl and start scooping the goop out with your gloved hand. Food is pushed around the plate and carelessly sprawled napkins resting high on top of the mix. Leftover food squishes between your fingers as you sigh. Even though it’s only your third day as a cafeteria worker, you’re sick of it already. You didn’t imagine having a job during college would be this…charming, yet you didn’t have much of a choice. Disgusted, you look around, wondering if the other cafeteria workers are thinking the same thing: “I’m doing this to pay for college?”
[snyd]And an education at MSU certainly does not come without a price tag, especially since MSU increased the tuition nearly 10 percent last July. With this increase, tuition prices vary depending on a student’s year in school (upperclassmen dish out more dough than underclassmen), and the new costs are effective for the 2007-2008 academic year.
When all the news seemed to revolve around the fall tuition hike, the MSU Board of Trustees made a small step to help relieve the tuition burden on students, according to an Oct. 29 article from The State News. At their Oct. 26 meeting, the board agreed to kick back $26 to each student registered for fall and spring 2008 classes, along with an additional $2.25 per credit hour, for next semester’s tuition bill. This action will help slightly, but does not come close to addressing the rise in tuition as a whole. So, nearly five months later, how are students adjusting to the increase?
The Job Jugglers
For most students, the tuition increase has only one solution, and it comes down to five simple words: the need for a job. Whether on or off campus, students are having to juggle one or more jobs on top of classes and other extracurricular activities to help pay for classes, books, rent and food. “Last year I got a job at Sparty’s to help my parents out with my tuition bill, but they only gave me 12-15 hours a week,” journalism and kinesiology sophomore Lisa Erickson said. “This year I got another job as a Brody desk receptionist because I didn’t make enough money last year.”
[wall]Several students like Erickson have chosen on-campus jobs to help pay for the costs of school because it is convenient to have a job that is close to their classes and residences, and on-campus employers generally work around students’ busy schedules. For most students, an on-campus job isn’t just for extra bar money and shopping trips to Meridian. English, journalism and interdisciplinary studies in social science sophomore Pamela Wall got a job at West Circle cafeterias to help pay for the costs of school. “With the fact that I am splitting tuition with my parents, not working while at school is completely out of the question,” Wall said.
Another popular solution to the price increase is becoming a Resident Mentor (RA), which takes care of room and board. “Although my parents are paying for my tuition, saving about seven thousand dollars a year is my gift to them for helping me through college,” said Michael Berkowitz, a pre-veterinary medicine and zoology sophomore and RA in West Holmes hall.
After a hefty $6,000 tuition bill for a semester, most parents are less than thrilled to pay for any additional costs. This leaves many students looking for jobs to help with the costs of living, books and activities. Human biology and criminal justice junior Lauren Doherty has a job at Noodles & Company to pay not only for her textbooks, but also has to cover the dues of her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi, each year. “It’s a job where you do not like to work, but you know you need to in order to survive,” Doherty said.
Other students have not gotten jobs while at MSU, but now that tuition has been raised and the new semester is half over, the pressure is on to decide whether to get a job. Some students, like engineering sophomore Bradley Crandall, are planning to get a job or internship this summer to help pay for school. “Engineers have paid internships,” Crandall said. “The money should hold me over for the year. As for the other years, I might take a semester off to do co-op.”
No-preference sophomore Fil Nguyen transferred to MSU this semester and has to pay for school all on his own. “As far as tuition, I’m independent.” Nguyen said. He plans on getting a job in the near future as well, especially since school costs more this year than others. “Tuition, room and board don’t pay for themselves,” Nguyen said.
The Loan Sharks
Students also have several options besides taking up a job or two to help cover the costs of college. Many financial aid options are available, including Federal Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), Federal National Smart Grant, Federal Parent Loan (PLUS), Federal Pell Grant, Federal Stafford Loan, MSU Student Grant (SAG), MSU Assistance Grant (MAG), and others. Beyond financial aid and loans, alternative lending sites such as myrichuncle.com also are used as sources for financial assistance, but not as often as official financial aid services through the school.
“I had to take out a few loans for the first time this year,” chemistry sophomore Dan Gregg said. “I don’t really know how much because I don’t handle my tuition stuff, at least until I have to pay it back.”
And Gregg is not alone. Loans, along with jobs, are one of the most common methods of paying for school, especially in light of the tuition increase. “I will probably end up taking a loan out for the first time this year,” psychology sophomore Jessica Tapley said. “I never have any money even though I work.”
Crunching the Numbers
According to the Michigan House and Senate Bill 0436, which was issued in May of this year, the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate approved a report from the Legislative Conference Committee that requires taking measures to resolve the 2006-2007 budget problems, including a significant loss in funding for higher education. Michigan’s 15 public universities were cut $25.9 million. The reduction for MSU was $6 million, or a loss of 60 percent, which included a $400,000 cut to the Agricultural Experiment Station and a $300,000 cut to the Extension Service, according to the bill.[phill]
Not only that, but the Legislature also approved a delay in funding for the second half of the August 2007 payment to the universities, until the 2007-2008 school year. For public universities, this means a delay of $69.4 million dollars. These two components combined will cost MSU about $400,000 in its income overall. Translation? MSU needed to raise tuition for students in order to make up for these budget losses.
“In the face of limited support from the state government, the university had to make a difficult choice,” said Mark Skidmore, an agricultural economics professor at MSU. “As a first best solution, I would favor adequate funding from the state government so that we could keep tuition down. Unfortunately, Michigan, as well as other states, is facing a difficult fiscal crisis. This means budget in a variety of areas will be cut and increases in any category will be very limited. MSU then has to decide whether to limit [or] cut educational services, increase tuition, or both. I think MSU made the prudent choice in increasing tuition.”
Economics professor Todd Elder agreed. “I think no one can really be happy about a tuition increase, but it seems as if most big state schools, particularly in the Midwest don’t have much of a choice, since state Legislatures keep cutting state appropriations for higher education,” he said. “If a school like MSU didn’t raise tuition, obviously it would have to make some cuts somewhere, like eliminating majors or reducing salaries of faculty and staff.”
[todd]In a public statement made by MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, she commented on MSU’s current budget situation. “In taking this action, MSU’s Board of Trustees carefully considered the university’s current and future value and how best to preserve that value. MSU’s budget framework is strategic, and it is both evidence-based and values-based in nature. It demands sustainability. The university has worked diligently over time to contain costs, operate efficiently, keep student costs in check, and provide financial aid for students in need, all while maintaining world-class quality.”
While the increase may have been necessary for MSU to keep up with its status and expectations, it has certainly placed a financial strain on many students and their parents. Students are turning to alternative lending options to help pay for school, as well as finding jobs that will likely coincide with their busy class schedules. Now especially, students are beginning to feel the burn of the tuition increase, and it is getting harder to ignore. Even if students don’t need to pay for their own tuition, the extra money to help with other school costs proves to be very helpful in the long run. So whether you need to pay for your entire class or just the books that come with it, five months into the school year, you may be realizing you need to swallow your pride and get a less-than-glamorous job to help cover the costs. So put on those rubber gloves: it might be time to get a job at your hall’s cafeteria to help pay for the rising prices of college.

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