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Tuition increase causes student concerns

In July, the Board of Governors of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, also known as PASSHE, approved an increase of the state universities’ tuition for the 10th year in a row by nearly 3 percent, equivalent to $224 per year for the 2018-2019 school year.

The affected schools include all 14 state owned universities in Pennsylvania, including West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

With the 3 percent increase, tuition for students will increase from $7,492 to $7,716. When you add in the technology fee, general fee and tuition, full-time students end up paying $5,205.88 per semester. “There needs to be a better breakdown of our tuition and how it is being raised,” one West Chester student said, “because some students have no idea.”

The overall budget for PASSHE is $1.7 billion. According to PASSHE, the organization has a projected budget deficit of $50 million that they need to fulfill. Therefore, the raise in tuition will cover $30 million of that budget, leaving a gap of $20 million that PASSHE still needs to account for. PASSHE has slowly been increasing their tuition year by year, this being the 10th in a row, with the 2011-2012 school year having the highest percentage yet, containing a 7.5 percent upsurge.

There are two perspectives on why tuition continues to rise — and who’s to blame. One perspective is that the entire higher education system of Pennsylvania is at fault. When looking at Pennsylvania’s higher education status, the US News and World Report rated the state as being the worst in the nation, as well as ranked the third worst state for low debt at graduation and third worst for tuition and fees. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center stated, “35 years of state disinvestment have left Pennsylvania ranked worst in the nation when it comes to higher education, sunk in the rankings by students’ high debt at graduation and the state’s high tuition and fees.” The amount the state funds the higher education system is now less than it was 10 years ago.

As a result, Senator Vincent Hughes points out that the share of adults in Pennsylvania who have more than a high-school degree is lower than in any of the 50 states. This translates to lower wages and incomes for individuals, which ultimately results in slower economic growth for the state. Hughes says, “Because of costs and lack of resources, a stunning 70 percent of Pennsylvania students graduate with debt. This hobbles them into the future and holds our economy back.”

When comparing Pennsylvania’s tuition to other higher education systems within the nation, they ranked third highest for the average 2017-2018 in-state tuition and fees. As for how others are viewing the situation, there were a few members who spoke out against PASSHE’s decision.  Prior to the official vote, the state system was given four straight appropriations in hopes they’d deny the increase. In addition, over the past four years, the percentage of appropriation has increased, and has fluctuated between two percent and five percent.

The Philadelphia Inquirer conducted an interview with State Senate Judith Schwank, who stated, “I’m very concerned about the student debt load, affordability, accessibility, all the things that we say we need to be for our students. We undermine that by continually raising tuition.”

Gabriella, a current West Chester University Sophomore who pays for her education, spoke on the issue stating she had no idea that tuition had been increased. She explained that it’s upsetting to hear about the increase because she found it was already expensive as is, and it’ll result in her having more debt once she graduates. When asked if she believed going to West Chester University is worth the amount of money she’ll owe in the long run, Gabriella stated, “No. I would’ve definitely gone to community college first, then finished at a four year college. I would’ve been less in debt.”

 Another West Chester student said, “I can’t imagine the bill that people without scholarships have to pay if they spend all 4 years here with housing. I also have help from a savings plan my parents did for me and will still be $10,000 in debt. I think it is a shame to have to be so deep in debt (most will have way more debt than I will) just to have the opportunity to get a college degree.”

A second perspective that can be taken into account for is how the representatives on the board feel about the tuition. While many of the board members believed the decision was difficult, they voted in favor in order to maintain the quality of programs, staff and the student experience. The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to David Maser, a board member who supported the increase, to which he said on the matter, “At a certain point, you’re cutting into bone. You’re cutting into vital arteries. I will support the motion because I think it’s the right balance.”

Brooke Bassett is a communication studies major with a minor in journalism.

Alison Roller is an English major with a minor in journalism.

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