One of the major concerns many college students have when it comes to their education is the ever-rising costs of tuition. While there is no easy fix to this problem, Case Western Reserve University’s administration and its Undergraduate Student Government (USG) are working together to increase tuition transparency through a revised tuition forum which will allow students to better understand the school’s budget and provide feedback.
The tuition forum itself isn’t new—it’s been an annual event for several years. During these past events, members of the school’s administration, including the provost, would attend a regularly scheduled USG meeting and talk about the increase in tuition which would occur the next year. It was structured in a way which would first allow administrators to discuss changes in tuition for the upcoming year and then students were allowed to ask questions, allowing for a dialogue to be opened regarding those changes.
However, according to USG President Hunter Stecko, the system was less than ideal. Since the budget had already been approved by the time of the forum, administrators were unable to change it despite the feedback of students, causing both students and administrators to become frustrated with each other during these dialogues.
“We felt that it was not a particularly productive dialogue,” Stecko stated, “and we want to create something where there will be a productive dialogue regarding tuition, what drives tuition [and] where these costs are coming from.”
Thus, beginning this year, members of USG and the administration have been working together to create a new version of the tuition forum—one which will allow students to have more say in the school’s budget.
“What we have decided to do right now … is to have a two-stage sort of event,” Stecko explained. In the spring, the provost’s office will share information regarding tuition with USG, specifically regarding the cost of student-based services. Then, USG will gather feedback from the student body about these costs and determine if, as a whole, the student body would like to spend more or less money on certain services. This would help, for example, if students decide they would like less shuttles on campus and more access to SafeRide services. In the second phase, USG would then submit a report of this feedback to the administration by Nov. 1 of a given year, and administration could then take into account student feedback when planning for next year’s budget.
While he stated that he isn’t yet sure just how this will impact student life, as not all of the details are clear yet, Stecko has high hopes for the revised forum: “In an ideal world … we would actually get to have a lot more ability as students to weigh the services we’re receiving with how much they actually cost … [If] we don’t feel as a student body that we’re getting [the full value of a] service out of [tuition], then it makes sense that some of that service goes away and our tuition goes down, or we just have a conversation about what we can redirect that funding to in order to make the student experience better.”
While the timing of the project is still not entirely clear at this point, by fall of next year, students should be able to submit their budgeting priorities through USG surveys and reports. While these changes to the tuition forum will be evident relatively soon, the impact on actual tuition prices will take a bit longer to see.
More specific information about this forum will become available within the next few weeks, but in the meantime, students should be aware that changes are coming. These improvements will allow them to make their voices heard, and those who wish to be involved will have the opportunity to do so through various surveys, discussions and dialogues which USG plans to offer on the topic of tuition price. With these efforts, hopefully the services covered by tuition can be tailored to better fit our student body—and students will better be able to understand exactly what they are paying for.