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2 February 2014

Tuition affordability should be prioritized

As tuition goes up, it seems like financial aid packages and grant funding goes down. Coupled with a tough job market, student debt has exacerbated, and the government is not doing enough to help.

Tuition at UM for the 2013-2014 school year was $41,580 with fees of $1,272. This is up from $32,422 and $730 respectively, in 2007. On average, students see their tuition increase by $1,240 each year. University tuition is steadily increasing across the board.

At the same time, nearly 60 percent of college students in the United States have to take on loans, with those under the age of 30 with the highest percentage of debt. The current amount of outstanding student loan debt is between $902 billion and $1 trillion.

Every generation has struggled with college tuition and financial aid, but if tuition continues rising at this rate, with aid falling, it won’t be long before the top universities are made up of not necessarily the best students, but instead only those who can afford it.

Recently, the university sent out an email informing students that the Florida Residential Access Grant (FRAG) was being reduced by $33. The reason stated was that “The reduction is necessary to ensure that the program expenditures do not exceed the amount budgeted for the program but the Florida legislature through the budget process.”

It may be a small amount, but this is an increasingly common trend within federal and state governments. When the budget needs to be cut, education is the first to see the effects.

The same people cutting financial aid, however, are the ones espousing views of empowering the next generation to succeed. If they keep reducing our financial aid, which in turn hinders our ability to finish, or even begin higher education, how can we realistically do so?

Our elected officials cannot continue to be inconsistent. They cannot continue supporting education only with words. It is time for their actions to follow.

Students who graduate from private, nonprofit universities graduate with an average of $29,000 or more in debt. There are students at UM who currently take out approximately half of their tuition in loans. At the end of four years, they will have almost $100,000 in debt before graduate school.

Due to high levels of undergraduate debt, some may defer or forgo graduate school altogether because they can no longer afford to pay for it.

There is no perfect solution to this problem, but something has got to give. Either legislators should find other ways to reduce spending, or universities should find a way to keep costs manageable.

Both parties are responsible for helping the next generation succeed when they leave college. It’s time that they step up to their responsibilities.

 

Taylor Duckett is a junior majoring in economics.