As institutions of higher education face budget cuts, students and staff across the country initiated demonstrations, petitions, walkouts and even law suits in protest against raised tuition fees, lay-offs, and cuts to financial aid. Here is a breakdown of what is happening in some of the country’s largest public universities.
Arizona State University (ASU) could close at least one and up to two of its campuses in order to make up for $88 million in state budget reductions —down 18 percent from last year. More than 550 staff positions have been eliminated, including dean and department chair positions, and more than 200 faculty associate positions have been eliminated. ASU capped its freshman enrollment and closed applications five months earlier than usual this year.
The University of California (UC) campuses proposed a 32 percent increase in tuition in order to make up for a 20 percent loss in state funding or $637.1 million.
On top of the nine percent increase last May, tuition at UCs will increase from $7,788 to $10,302, not including campus fees, an average of $930. UCs are also proposing having students seeking Business and Engineering degrees pay an extra $900. The reasons for this additional fee include high-paid professors in these fields and the likelihood of business and engineering students having high-paying jobs in the future to pay back extra loans.
After tuition fees more than doubled, California State University (CSU) students filed a lawsuit against CSU’s Board of Trustees claiming it was illegal to force students to pay double the tuition fee without enough notice to obtain the extra money.
As tuition fees increase the burden on students, state grants will no longer be there to soften the blow. 200,000 incoming students will lose most or all tuition assistance under the Cal Grant program and Cal Grants will disappear altogether in 2011.UC is proposing to cut freshman enrollment by 7 percent (2,300 students) for the fall and is in the process of laying off 1,900 employees, eliminating 3,800 positions and deferring hiring of nearly 1,600 positions (mostly faculty).
Over $200 million of Illinois’ Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants were cut earlier this year, affecting 237,000 eligible Illinois students. Students were awarded grants for only the first half of the school year or have not received money at all. Students losing MAP grant money have been using the internet, noticeably through Facebook and web sites such as saveillinoismapgrants.org, in order to gain support to overturn the state’s decision to cut the grants. Students are encouraging people to distribute flyers, contact their state representatives, sign a petition, and attend a rally in Springfield on Thursday, Oct. 15 to restore MAP grants.
On Facebook, saveillinoismapgrants.org was listed as a cause with over 14,000 members and there was an event listed for Knox students to attend called “Springfield MAP Grant Rally!” The Knox web site urged students to attend the rally in Springfield, with transportation provided by Student Senate.
How is the wealthiest private school in the United States, Harvard University, doing in comparison to the budget cuts for public schools? Harvard lost as much money as some large companies as it suffered a nearly $11 billion loss. Last year, Harvard’s endowment was nearly $37 billion, but after decreasing by nearly 30 percent, its endowment was $26 billion as of June of this year.
Faced with the increasing gap between tuition fees and financial aid, more students will likely attend community colleges instead of four-year universities, causing community colleges to overcrowd. This gap may even cause students to drop out of college or not attend at all. Students will have to take up more loans or work more hours.
However, the economic downturn does not bode well for those hoping to work to save up money before college. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for teenagers is 25.9 percent as of September 2009. Faculty layoffs in universities and colleges mean less classes offered and more crowded classrooms. Some students will not be able to get into required classes, delaying their graduation date.