Butler’s tuition increase furthers inequity

Cartoon courtesy of the Collegian Archives.

ZACHARY DOERING | GUEST OPINION COLUMNIST | zdoering@butler.edu

Butler University has the ability to prepare students to make an impact in the world.

The university is in the unique position of being small enough to have the opportunity to provide students with strong connections to professors and a deep sense of community and culture. If appreciated and used properly, Butler could help thousands to tens of thousands of students enter the world with the passion, knowledge and awareness to take the world by storm and improve the lives of thousands, maybe even millions.

That is why the most recent tuition increase decision released on Jan. 24 by the Board of Trustees — a 2.5% increase — is so disappointing and upsetting.

The action taken by the university’s administration as well as the underlying principles and values revealed through this action is saddening and concerning. The effects this decision has on non-wealthy families and students attending Butler have been completely ignored.

According to a table released by Raise.me, the average tuition cost for a Butler student whose family makes under $30,000 annually is $29,547, while the average tuition cost for a student whose family makes over $110,000 is $39,371. The difference in annual income is over $80,000 and yet the difference in tuition cost is only $10,000. In addition, poorer families are paying as much each year for college as they’re making.

The university wanted to make it very clear how much they help students financially and how that was a major factor in their decision to make it more expensive for students, especially for those whom the assistance can benefit the most.

According to the notification released by Butler: “We also provide institutional aid to more than 95 percent of our students in the form of merit, need, and/or talent-based awards. Representing almost 30 percent of the University’s expenses, $78 million is dedicated to the financial aid budget.”

Using the need for more money to help students financially doesn’t justify or increase the morality of making tuition more expensive; it’s completely contradictory.

Through this situation, Butler is telling current students — and anyone considering Butler — that inequality is okay, and that the world works that way. This goes against everything positive that Butler could and should represent and strive to achieve.

The culture that Butler creates and engages students within molds their views of the world after college. This university has the potential and the obligation to create a culture that is dedicated to understanding the problems in the world and challenging them head-on.

The problems on campus, including the tuition increase, are being either concealed from students or displayed as necessary in order for the university — and therefore Butler students — to succeed. How are Butler students supposed to help solve the problems of the world if a precedent is set where the problems closest to them are untouchable and concrete? This action passed by the Board of Trustees taints the culture Butler set out to create in the first place.

The university is also not being transparent about what they are going to spend the money for. The outline generally states what money is used for, not specifically what this increase will be used for.

However, in the notification put out by the university, it states: “The largest portion of our operating budget is dedicated to attracting and retaining exceptional faculty and staff.”

The reason more staff would need to be hired is because more students are coming to the university. Shouldn’t the money coming in from the new incoming students pay for the increased number of staff needed? It’s a cycle that should sustain itself, not collapse without external assistance, such as increased tuition.

The way that Butler University conducts itself is observed by its students. The university’s behavior influences the students’ values and will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Butler has the ability to mold students into determined, socially aware and intuitive people who make positive changes in the world. Those values start at Butler. The university must lead by example; people’s experiences here will impact them forever.

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