In an Undergraduate Student Government (USG) general assembly meeting this past Tuesday, Provost and Executive Vice President Ben Vinson III addressed students concerns about an increase in tuition.
Vinson reported that the 2019-2020 tuition would be $50,450, a 3.8 percent increase from the $49,043 tuition of the 2018-2019 school year. This is an especially impressive increase considering that the tuition increase for the 2017-2018 school year was only 3.25 percent to $47,073. Provost Vinson mentioned the unique timing of this year’s tuition discussion, as Vinson’s Strategic Planning Think Big project began in January. Through this initiative students’ concerns and ideas regarding tuition will have an outlet for expression connected directly to administrators.
The Provost was joined by his Chief of Staff Lisa Camp, Vice President for Enrollment Management Rick Bischoff, Vice President of Campus Services Dick Jamieson and Vice President of Student Affairs Lou Stark in order to more comprehensively address questions and concerns students may have had.
Jameson announced that room and board will increase 2.75 percent for the next school year and attributed this to inflation related to cost of labor, goods and services and to fund additional projects for the year. Additionally Jameson announced a new meal plan, the Greek Life “supplemental” meal plan, would be added next year.
Camp discussed the “facilities race” that has started across the country at institutes of higher education aimed at attracting new students and raised the question of who would be the first institution to decide not to participate in this costly competition.
The floor was opened to questions from USG members and attending students. Some students wondered about the purpose of the mandatory meal plans that first and second-year students must be registered on. Jameson explained that building community is crucial for first-year students and fundamental for a successful academic career. However, he acknowledged that the mandatory meal plan for second-year students does not serve the same purpose, as most second-year students have suite style living arrangements, and was receptive to working together with the student body to reach a sustainable solution.
Vinson called attention to the paradox that is created with rising tuition: as families and students pay more to colleges they have higher expectations, which cost more. It’s easy for students to feel alienated by a system that seems to take advantage of students for profit, however Vinson assured students that “We may be an industry but we’re far from a business.”