Students deserve a say in tuition

by Simon Shieh

College tuition in the U.S. is the fourth most unaffordable university tuition in the world, and has led to much discontent. In order to look critically at tuition prices in any country, many variables must be taken into account. Let’s start by looking at student dining services.

San Diego State Dining is a non-profit auxiliary service of San Diego State that provides quality food for a price comparable to those at other universities in the nation. That being said, it ranks poorly alongside many universities outside the U.S. A company called Mensa provides dining services to more than 750 university dining halls in Germany. A meal at a Mensa cafeteria, which is subsidized by the German government, costs between $2.73 and $5.45. Comparatively cheap is a student meal ticket at the Paris School of Business in France priced at $3.88.

The European system of student dining reflects a reality that holds true for many people, which is that full-time students have less money. They spend a large portion of their time studying both in and out of class leaving only a few hours for a part-time job. It’s a familiar story, but one that seems somehow forgotten by the U.S. government and university administrators.

Global Higher Education Rankings 2010 did a comparison and analysis of university tuition prices around the world. W[quote]hile it shows the U.S. to have the most expensive college tuition in the world, the U.S. ranks fourth in unaffordability when median income and tax expenditures are factored in. [/quote]The higher end on the spectrum of average university tuition starts with the U.S. at $13,856, followed bu Japan at $11,865, Australia at $7,692 and Canada at $5,974. The lower end consists of Denmark at $530, France at $585, Norway at $596, and Sweden at $600.

Fortunately, this is not the whole picture. University students in the U.S. are not only the top payers of tuition, but are also among the top receivers of grants and loans. Mostly from the private sector, the average grant offered in the U.S. is worth $4,555, putting us second to Denmark whose grants come entirely from public sources. We also top the list of student loan amounts, but of course in the long run, debt from student loans financially hurts students. In 2008, 51% of undergraduate students received aid in the form of a grant, and 39.1% in the form of a loan. Though the private sector provides most of the support, the U.S. does a good job in awarding students with grants that help with the high cost of tuition. Also, let’s not forget that in many of these countries where college tuition is low, people pay higher taxes which partially goes to subsidizing universities.

Considering all of these variables, our government in conjunction with our universities still does not seem to be doing enough to make higher education affordable. More and more students come out of university burdened with debt, and find that their college degree holds less and less significance in the pool of job applicants. The problem has not gone unnoticed by politicians or college administrators, so I’m wondering when and how we’ll change the system so that higher education no longer equates to such huge student debt.

[quote]There’s a great opportunity for you to have your voice heard in a public forum open to all SDSU students that will discuss a potential “Student Success Fee.”[/quote] The forum will meet many times from Feb. 3-21, and will offer a platform for students and administrators to discuss the fee which could add $200-$500 to student tuition per semester. The proposal came as a result of “severe reductions in state-support for SDSU,” according to the voter pamphlet. The money that the fee would bring to the school is proposed to go help “expand academic related programs.” If you’re concerned about the price of tuition or the general state of our university, attend the forum and tell them what you think.

Many people I meet are outraged at the price of college tuition in the U.S., but their anger usually stems from a feeling of helplessness or lack of control. By understanding exactly why we’re paying so much for tuition, and what is being done to lower that cost on the part of the university, we can dispel any caricatured illusions of “the system” and start advocating for positive and realistic change.