By Amy Rudolph
When Washington College announces a new tuition freeze, students and parents are delighted. While tuition freezes keep tuition at the same rate, students can still see their total cost of attendance rise. At some institutions, tuition charges and total cost of attendance are dependent upon each other, and changes in tuition are reflected in the total cost. When tuition is frozen, so is the cost of attendance. At other colleges, such as WC, this is not the case.
To the untrained eye, it may appear as though costs are staying low because of this so-called freezing, but the opposite is true. To cover the cost of these forgone funds, institutions raise the cost of other essential services. People typically do not nitpick every single charge or compare their bill to the year prior. As long as the sum looks about the same, no one questions where the bulk of these charges is going.
According to Jon Marcus of The Atlantic, “Fees nationwide continue to increase even faster than tuition—often covering the same things but letting institutions claim tuition hikes are slowing.” Marcus found that when these additional charges are added, students and parents feel “nickel-and-dimed.”
At WC, all the charges on student accounts are for seemingly essential services such as housing, meal plans, health service fees, etc.. Many of these fees are not optional: freshmen are required to pay for orientation and seniors have to pay for graduation and ‘maintenance of degree.’ These required fees can rise and students will still pay them, as they are required to participate in these events.
One of the fees that many students do not pay attention to year-to-year is the cost of housing. Housing rates for 2017-2018 are higher than pervious years. General room and board was $2,779 per semester last year, and is now $2,804 per semester. This is not a large difference, but once multiplied by all the students living in general housing on campus, it adds up.
There are other fees that make my parents and me say, ‘What even is that?’ I have no idea what a “student fee” is. I thought tuition was the student fee. I am very curious as to what that $347 each semester is for, if it isn’t just another part of tuition.
I would appreciate more transparency from the College as to what these fees go toward. I am not against freezing tuition as long as the difference is not just tacked on elsewhere and called something else. If the student fees, etc. still benefit students and help to improve the College in some way, I have no problem with that. I just feel as though they should be explained more. Many students at WC take out student loans that mature to astronomical sums, so it would be a consolation to know where that money is really going.
Students are not the only ones who feel the effects of tuition freezing. At most institutions, tuitions freezes also halt professor salaries and do not allow for raises and bonuses, according to the American Association of University Professors. It has yet to be confirmed if current WC tuition policies directly affect professors, as a search of the College’s literature did not mention what exactly happens to students during a tuition freeze, let alone faculty. I have a great respect for the professors at WC, and I would feel badly if they are deprived of raises in a false effort to keep costs low.
Raises and bonuses motivate workers to perform at a higher level, and are also a token of appreciation from administration. A student saying, ‘Thank you, professor” on their way out the door should not be the only thanks that professors receive.
I am very suspicious of businesses, especially when it appears that the consumer is being tricked in some way. If WC were more upfront with how tuition freezes work and how the total cost of attendance is calculated with these seemingly hidden fee increases, I would be less bitter about it. If freezing tuition still allows the College to earn as much as they would without it, while depriving professors of bonuses and students of transparency, I do not support it.