Over winter break, Wittenberg students received an eye-catching email from President Michael Frandsen. This email held a short paragraph letting students know that for the second time in the last two years, tuition for students would be raised and no concrete reasoning was given. Tuition for students has gone up by 6 percent in these last two years, with this latest raise being 2 percent.
Frandsen attempted to explain the raise by stating, “As the parent of two recent college graduates, I understand and appreciate the sacrifices you and your families make for a Wittenberg education. We want your student experience at Wittenberg to be extraordinary, and we want our liberal arts education to be attainable.”
According to the Office of Admissions page on tuition and fees, tuition will be raised to $38,680 and the full price of education will be $49,856 per year. These numbers are up from this current semester’s price $37,930 and $48,856, respectfully. This would mean there is the potential for incoming freshmen next year to incur $4,000 more in debt than the class of 2018. To put that into perspective, that is about 10 weeks of work—before taxes—at $10 an hour with 40 hours of work per week. Before the tuition raise, collegecalc.org ranked Wittenberg as the 9th highest tuition in Ohio, and now we will be moving up, or, at the very least, growing closer to the 8th position.
Students are undoubtedly upset about this raise in tuition. The strain on students and families was just greatened because of this decision. Coming into college, families all sit down to figure out a way that their beloved student can make it through college from a financial aspect. This can take many forms. Some students are paying the entirety of their tuition on their own, some are financing with some help from parents and others are relying on their parents to cover the cost of their experience. However, the ultimate goal of each family is to watch their student come out of college with the least amount of debt possible.
While some students whose parents decide to pay for their education can come out relatively unscathed, most college students are going to be hurt by the debt they are taking on after college. As a college student, you are starting your life in a mountain of debt that you must mine your way through to finally pay for your education. Wittenberg University just made that mountain 2 percent larger. On top of that, the mountain is only going to grow as interest on the loans will continue to add to the debt. Furthermore, if students believe they paid more than they should have for their Wittenberg education, it may lead to a future decrease in alumni donations—at least for the next couple of classes that are graduating.
To add insult to injury, many families and students already struggle to pay for tuition. It is a struggle for some students to figure out how they will pay for the upcoming semester. Some families even have to take out more student loans to help to pay for that billing statement alone. These things are all occurring now, before the raise. After the raise, this stress and turmoil is certainly going to rise.
Wittenberg’s retention rates will also continue to drop as students find they cannot afford this education. As Sutton Jacobs, ’18, previously reported in “Where are all the students going?,” Wittenberg is losing about $42 million right now just from students not returning to Witt. Why would students who saw upperclassmen graduate with a smaller college bill for the same college degree want to pay this charge?
Another problem Wittenberg will encounter is that our student population, and therefore the school’s income, will decrease. As stated above, when students are getting ready for college, they are determining how they will afford it. Contrary to popular belief, the cost of the university students wish to attend plays a huge role in where they go. With Wittenberg raising tuition, high school students are apt to turn down Witt for more cost-effective options. That being said, many of Wittenberg’s intangibles—like the beauty of campus, for example—will still be attractive to visiting students, however the brilliance of these things will lose their luster when students see the price tag.
A logical rumor that has been spreading around is that Witt’s investment in a new sports facility is the cause of this most recent raise. After the recent “$18 million oopsie” occurred, it forced the Board of Directors to make hard financial decisions for the university. It would make sense that one move would be to up the tuition that students have to pay to compensate for this debt that Wittenberg is about to take on. If this is the case, it is unjust of the Board of Directors to ask Wittenberg students, who, along with alumni, finance this well-esteemed university, to pay for a huge error that was made in the administration for the new building.
In closing, here is Wittenberg’s mission statement:
“Wittenberg University provides a liberal arts education dedicated to intellectual inquiry and wholeness of person within a diverse residential community. Reflecting its Lutheran heritage, Wittenberg challenges students to become responsible global citizens, to discover their callings, and to lead personal, professional, and civic lives of creativity, service, compassion, and integrity.”
Wittenberg is breaking two of these values. The university is not showing integrity due to the fact that they are not giving concrete reasoning for the raise. Finally, Wittenberg is not being compassionate to its students as they turn away from those suffering through this raise. Wittenberg’s students deserve better than to have this increase occur, especially when there is not a full explanation as to why.