Column: The MSU administration doesn't care about you or your low-income family
When tuition rates were at the top of the agenda at Wednesday's MSU Board of Trustees meeting, the university had a chance to assert itself as an educational superpower. The university had a chance to follow the University of Michigan and offer free tuition to low-income families to aid the financial blow of higher education.
It did neither.
Instead, the Board approved to raise tuition by 2.8 percent for in-state freshmen and sophomores, 3.8 percent for in-state juniors and seniors and 4 percent for out of state undergraduates. It’s the eighth consecutive year MSU has raised its tuition.
“Part of our story is serving Michigan first.” Simon said early in the meeting. “We’re very middle class and very proud of it.”
Just one week after the U-M Board of Regents announced the “Go Blue Guarantee” — which grants free tuition to any student whose family makes under $65,000 a year — the Board drops the “Go Green, Go 15” program that freezes tuition for incoming freshmen at 2017-18 rates as long as they take 15 credits to counteract future tuition hikes.
Trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster supported the new initiative and said it supports students who come from middle-class families and helps them with debt.
Raising tuition is helping middle class families. Is this some kind of sick joke?
To further twist the knife, the Board also approved plans to replace seats at the Wharton Center and change parts of Wilson Rd., along with a 2.5 percent increase in faculty salary and non-unionized staff.
Let’s not forget the many students who pay for additional access to run-down, overcrowded intramural facilities or congested, ass-backwards parking lots (only to get ticketed just minutes after meters expire). Those pennies add up.
But Byrum, Foster and the rest of the Board sit before a President who makes $750,000 annually, and a university which brings in over $119 million in athletics alone, according to the 2016-17 budget, and tell us they side with the middle class.
After all, she has an accurate assessment of fair living for those families.
The “Go Green, Go 15” is nothing more than a pity consolation for a university that can't match the firepower U-M is bringing to the table. Nor is it trying.
Does a low-income tuition plan have to imitate U-M’s? Of course not. MSU already has one. U-M has a lower enrollment, higher endowment, much higher revenue spending and different allocations in its fiscal budget. It is, in a sense, an apples-to-oranges comparison. Coupled with less funding from the state and federal level, it’s harder to run the university like it’s a business.
Simon claims the "Go Blue Guarantee" was modeled after the "Spartan Advantage" program, which gives free tuition and room and board costs to students below the poverty line.
We all know footing the bill for college is troubling for most middle-class families.
But to have the gall to try and empathize with middle-class students, claiming you’re on their side, while raising tuition? Then guaranteeing the already-raised rate to students so they’re not subject to future inflation and call that a compromise?
“Despite MSU lagging the Big Ten average for state funding by more than $3,500 per student, approximating $168 million in resources, MSU continues its pledge to provide Michigan students with a life-changing educational experience,” Simon said in a press release announcing the new initiative. “It’s unfortunate the state is continuing to shift responsibility for supporting higher education to residents, but our commitment to students and their families remains strong.”
I dare you, President Simon, to tell the ambitious students across our state, intimidated by the encumbering constriction of attending a major university, to abandon their dreams; to settle for a less esteemed university because their families cannot bear the burden your tuition demands.
On the financial standing of my indebted parents I was unable to attend MSU, but thanks to my loving grandparents who cosigned my FAFSA loans, I can offer you this column. My mother, who worked three jobs to put food in our pantry, and my father, who moved back home with my grandmother to escape the realities of a dead-end job, always told me to never grow complacent — chase your dreams no matter the cost. Break free and do great things.
Your actions inferred I should have settled. Others in my shoes or in worse standing should just concede.
MSU had the chance to set an unprecedented move for higher education — never have the two most prominent public universities in a state opened access to so many and changed thousands of lives. Instead, that chance was squandered.
But it’s imminent. Other premier universities will follow. Dominos will fall. A new revolution in college affordability is beginning, but you lie in the trenches as your superiors move forward.
Perhaps that’s why you tell us to stay put, you wish not to be the only one who lags behind. Many will choose your rival down the road because they offer to lift the financial burden you cannot carry yourself.
You had the chance to make history. And you blew it.