Discourse / Editorials / November 14, 2018

Thoughts from the Embers: Government must intervene in tuition and debt

Across the country the cost of tuition has been rising, though the value of a college education has arguably been plummeting. The scourge of student loans will affect Knox alums and college graduates across the nation. For the better part of their adult lives. The job market only just recovered from the recession last year and it’s still tough for college graduates to get jobs without pursuing further education. College alums are struggling to make enough money to pay off their student loans, let alone take on the costs of a master’s degree.

The fact that Knox College has not more publicly announced significant raises to our tuition is irresponsible. Students deserve to know when decisions affecting their financial future are being made so that they may give input, or adjust their college plans accordingly. If the tuition is going to be raised by 3.2 percent, that needs to be advertised beyond just a passing comment at a meeting briefing. We recognize that Knox has put a considerable amount of effort to give out scholarships and grant money to students. Knox strives to have affordable education which makes it possible for low income students to afford a higher education, however, not enough has been done to recognize that students who don’t come from privileged backgrounds are going to be affected at a much higher rate by tuition increases. Students from low income backgrounds especially need to be part of the conversation.  The reason why students are willing to pay astronomical costs to come to Knox is because students know they can get a high quality liberal arts education here. This type of comprehensive and varied education across subjects used to be something unique to small private institutions. However, as higher education programs become more competitive due to low college enrollment, public universities have started to offer liberal arts programs. This means students can get liberal arts degrees at a public university price. For students to continue coming to Knox, the school needs to make itself a financial competitor by keeping tuition low. This may mean taking on more institutional debt, or recruiting a larger incoming class. We realize that’s harder than it sounds.

When student loans have dismal interest rates and significant cumulative growth, Knox needs to have programs in place to train students to make smarter financial choices. Furthermore, there is something to be said about that fact that despite high tuition costs, Knox is behind on faculty salaries. We’re in the bottom half for faculty compensation in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) institutions according to the Board of Trustees meeting briefing. This has led to the schools being unable to offer competitive salaries to deserving and diverse professors. This makes the school unattractive in an academic world where diversifying is one of the biggest ways institutions have attempted to slow down enrollment lulls.

Rising tuitions are not just a Knox problem, but we need Knox solutions. ACM schools should call for action on behalf of their students. We should be talking to our local politicians and national representatives. There needs to be a greater push for the Trump administration to end their massacre of grants and scholarship programs. The Monetary Award Program, which had grants that did not need to be repaid, were suspended for the 2018-2019. Action groups need to be created to petition choices like this. Furthermore, the schools should start taking progressive stances on student debt, such as debt forgiveness for students who have had to declare bankruptcy or have dedicated their lives to public interest work.  Not only are these programs vital for the survival of institutions, they’re vital for the survival of students in their post-graduate lives.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  Debt government loans tuition

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