LEXINGTON, KY -
August is a time of new beginnings, surprises, and excitement. For college students, it's a time to get back to class, return to dorm rooms, hunt down a list of expensive textbooks, and figure out how to pay for another semester.
By my senior year, the tuition hike was expected. Over the last three years, my tuition has gradually gone up by almost $1000. For out of state students, a $2500 dollar tuition raise has come over the last 3 years. So, the question is, what are we paying more for?
The University of Kentucky publishes a list every year entitled "Mandatory Fees." This list covers everything from $130 for Student Health to $2.00 for the Kentucky Kernel to $80 for the Student gym. In total, the list comes to $695. Also, the university is adding course specific fees. While the extra $30 for a biology lab makes sense, $25 for an English class, for which the students are required to buy the books and handouts are distributed online, seems ridiculous.
Some courses cost hundreds of extra dollars. While the University's campus is flourishing and new buildings seems to be popping up at every turn, students many students aren't seeing the benefits of these extra charges. In fact, many departments are still trying to deal with budget cuts at the state and university level. In the years following the Recession, many states have begun revitalizing and jump starting higher education. Kentucky, however, has continued to cut education budgets in favor of other things.
Since 2008, the Kentucky higher education state funding has been cut 26.4% and was cut another 4.5% by Gov. Matt Bevin this year. However, recent studies show that budget cuts aren't directly causing tuition hikes. While there is no direct link between tuition hikes and budget cuts, other elements influence how much students pay. The University of Kentucky's tuition has been rising at a steady rate-4 to 7%- for the last few years, despite the size of the bi-annual budget changes.
Former Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett stated "Federal student aid policies do not cause college price inflation, but there is little doubt that they help make it possible." Since he made this statement in 1987, multiple studies have attempted to prove him right with mixed results. What most of the studies did find was that there was correlation between rising limits for federal student loans and tuition rates at public universities.
While tuition rates continue to rise, minimum wage has remained stagnant. To cover the 2017-18, an instate student would have to work 780 hours and an out of state student would need to work 1800 hours. For the out of state students, that is 34 hours a week with no vacations, thereby forcing students to either work full time or take out more loans.
Taking out more loans leads to more debt for recent college graduates. Nothing seems to be changing for the students. Despite luxury dorms, new restaurants, and fancy new classroom buildings, the quality of education and the investment in the existing programs remains unchanged. In 2016, despite major state funding cuts, President Eli Capiluto received a 48% raise on his base salary- from $500,000 to $790,000. Actions like this cause deep rooted resentment towards the University.