Forum

In response to rising tuition cost

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

College education should be free. For everyone. Who decided to put a price tag on education, anyways? Who decided what the monetary value that accompanies certain information should be, what makes one subject more “valuable” than the other, and what knowledge itself is worth?

Knowledge should be considered a fundamental human right for all people, no matter where on the globe they reside. That is why, when I received the email about Carnegie Mellon's decision to raise tuition by 3.2 percent, I became nervous. I consider the approved increase a hindrance to this right. I have a right to learn in an environment where I am not stressed or impacted by my ability to pay for it.

Carnegie Mellon has increased its tuition steadily each year. According to Carnegie Mellon's Finances Institute Research and Analysis (IRA) Factbook, the estimated total cost of attendance for first-year undergraduates has spiked from $49,464 in the 2006-2007 academic year to $67,980 in the 2016-2017 academic year. In ten years, the cost of attendance increased by over $18,000. A classmate of mine proposed that the trend of spiking tuition like this would only discourage students of lower socioeconomic status from applying to Carnegie Mellon in the first place. Unfortunately, I have to agree. The prospect of simply being able to afford going to a good college should not cause brilliant and dedicated students to shy away from applying.

Yet, with tuition inching closer and closer to costing six figures each year, it is perfectly valid for anyone scouting for colleges to widen their eyes in surprise and take Carnegie Mellon off their list of options. Most students in the U.S. that come from households struggling financially already find it hard to pay for the fees to take subject tests and apply to the colleges themselves. Adding to those expenses the potentially ridiculous cost of tuition, just to graduate with suffocating debt, isn’t doing prospective students any favors.

On the other hand, I will give it to Carnegie Mellon that along with this 3.2 percent increase in tuition, there was also an increase made by 3.8 percent in the amount of financial aid provided. However, many students don't receive financial aid, so they are not affected by the increase.

I thought of my international friends who are provided no financial aid as non-U.S. residents. On top of not receiving aid from Carnegie Mellon as an institution, they are unable to apply for an overwhelming majority of scholarships, based on the same premise that they are not U.S. residents. Now, let’s look at how this impacts international students statistically. In 2018-19, the school was ranked one of the top 5 U.S. institutions with the highest amount of international students in attendance. 22 percent of students at Carnegie Mellon are international students, according to Carnegie Mellon's Undergraduate International Students webpage and the U.S. News Short List. This means that the increase in financial aid provided to compensate for the increase in tuition does not apply to 22 percent of the student body. With virtually no aid provided, it’s highly plausible this increase would further discourage applications from talented individuals not just from America’s lower socioeconomic classes, but from across the globe.

At this point, it costs less to attend Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. The continual tuition increase is a dangerous form of economic exclusion. It is preventing certain demographics of people from obtaining the opportunities and the education that Carnegie Mellon has to offer, and it is placing loans and piles of debt into the hands of current students. The debt increase leads to increased levels of stress and generalized financial anxiety across the student body.

If Carnegie Mellon University wants to provide the optimal “diversity, equity, and inclusion” that they so tirelessly advertise, the “stress-free” environment for their students, then they should live up to their word — beginning with their tuition.