Last week, students received an email regarding a 3.3% increase in comprehensive fee increases, bringing the total to $60,144 in comprehensive cost. This may have come as a shock to many students, but this is a regular occurence in schools across America.
While the past three years were the lowest year to year increases since 1974, it can still be daunting to students who see that their payments have risen steadily. The increase may seem relatively small, but this can drastically alter how students plan to pay for their monthly dues or trimester payments.
This issue can especially apply to first-generation students and others who do not come from backgrounds that would have prepared them to expect that. Students who come from families that attended college in the U.S. are more likely to already be aware that this would happen and could plan accordingly based on their finances, but still one can never know how much it will increase in any given year or how family circumstances will affect planning.
Nevertheless, the fees increase while financial aid stays relatively the same. This further contributes to the burden placed on many students in how they pay for school when financial aid does not change with tuition increase. The increase is accredited partly on the minimum wage increase amongst many other reasons, but it is important to note that many people may come from families whose wages are fixed and are unaffected by this increase or did not see a wage increase from their jobs on campus.
A 3.28% increase may not seem that large, especially considering that this is low compared to past years. But the percentages represent quite sizable figures; a student who usually pays by the month could have a near $200 increase if their financial aid does not increase with it.
Ironically, Knox’s financial aid can make this situation even more difficult. As students rarely pay the full amount, the increase is a larger percentage of what they pay than it is of the fees as a whole.
However, we acknowledge that the school will have fee increases. We hope they will be minimized with the understanding that our institution is not in a position to be halting them.
What we would like to see is better help for students in planning for these increases as well as paying for them. With each students’ first financial aid package an estimate should be provided, using large, conservative fee increases, for their entire four years at Knox. College is not just a one year investment, and despite the uncertainty in the increases, it should be made clear to students from the beginning that increases will happen.
Ideally, financial aid would increase alongside fees. We obviously do not know exactly how that would work, but it would be reassuring to know what avenues the school is investigating in this regard. Being that we compete with state schools which not only have lower tuition but often have tuition freezes, offering more comprehensive planning in our financial aid would be an asset not a detraction. Tuition can only increase so far before we begin hemorrhaging students.
Last year we called for more transparency in how the increase in fees is reported and decided on, and we did see more of that this year. But now that the increases have become more clearly an established part of the Knox system, we need to figure out ways to make sure it is not a surprise and an extreme hindrance to students. The increase is already a burden enough, the surprise is unnecessary.