Dec 042012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Justifying higher tuition never seems to be a problem for the East Carolina University Board of Trustees.

Each round comes with some reason the school must repeatedly raise the cost of attendance, be it budget cuts inflicted by the state Legislature, the need to attract and retain talented professors or fear of losing a competitive edge over other peer institutions.

While those are all reasonable concerns for the university to have, East Carolina’s mission to serve this region is made more difficult when it prices higher education beyond the reach of talented students who come from less fortunate means. Furthermore, higher tuition saddles a growing share of graduates with an even greater debt, an unenviable burden at the outset of their professional lives.

At the trustees’ meeting last week, the board voted to approve tuition and fee increases for the 2013-14 school year. Undergraduates will see the cost of attendance rise 5.25 percent for state residents and 2.85 percent for out-of-state students.

Graduate school costs as well as those at the medical and dental schools also will rise, with students at the Brody School asked to swallow the largest increase in both percentage (16.71 percent) and dollars ($2,087).

In what has become a standard refrain after this action, school officials spoke of their reluctance to impose the hikes on students and nodding to the tradition of serving a region long beset by poverty. They called the increases necessary to offset reduced state funding and to maintain East Carolina’s high level of academic instruction.

There is no question that their regret is genuine, or that their concern for students is warranted. East Carolina was founded to meet the region’s need for teachers, and each step of its evolution has seen the school focused on serving eastern North Carolina. However, that mission is incongruent with pricing a college education beyond the means of the region’s least fortunate which, despite plentiful financial aid options, it threatens to do.

Further, higher tuition could once be defended by the knowledge that a student accruing debt in pursuit of a diploma would see higher earnings as a result, thus making repayment of loans relatively simple. In an era of economic contraction and staggeringly high unemployment, that argument no longer holds. Higher tuition means more debt, a burden that students may toil under for decades.

East Carolina remains a tremendous value, arguably the best in the state, but that reputation is threatened when the cost of attendance continues to escalate.

via The Daily Reflector.


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