Tuition increases further burden students’ shoulders, wallets

Photo by Mason Swenson | The Collegian Jacob Canady, sophomore in Social Work, works on his closing duties in the Cats' Den. They keep the popcorn in the back and allow the closers to snack on during the night.

When Hannah Rogers, senior in German and pre-law, heard that K-State was raising its tuition by 5 percent, she was not pleased.

“I got really mad,” Rogers said. “I’m working so hard to get this degree that they are saying is supposed to help me achieve my goals. I feel like they are just putting me further behind.”

She is just one of many students who burn the candles at both ends to make ends meet. When she first came to K-State from Colorado, Rogers worked two jobs on top of school responsibilities.

“I try to work full time during the normal school year,” Rogers said. “Right now, I have just one (job). I’m working like 60 hours a week though.”

According to Rogers, whenever she hears that the tuition is increasing, she sets up a meeting with financial aid. She said that they always try to get her to sign up for more loans.

According to the Institute for College Access and Success’s “The Project on Student Debt,” 2012 K-State graduates were, on average, $25,147 in debt upon graduation.

Since then, however, tuition and fees have increased by about 18 percent. Students that graduate in 2015 will be $2,200 more in debt, on average, than their 2012 counterparts, assuming that rent and food costs stay the same.

Larry Moeder, assistant vice president of student life and director of student financial assistance and admissions, said he doesn’t like to see tuition increase either, but that K-State has been hard at work fundraising in order to help students.

“The university has increased its scholarship opportunities over the years,” Moeder said. “Our foundation is setting record fundraising numbers. That’s good because it is bringing in more scholarship dollars to offset the increased tuition.”

He said he also believes that some students are not fully utilizing free resources around campus such as Powercat Financial Counseling.

“There are a lot of students who probably don’t have the experience to put together a budget, live by the budget and stick with keeping their costs down,” Moeder said.

He suggested students should also continuously search for scholarships, to help offset the rising cost of attending college. After entering college, many students gain valuable academic, work and volunteer experience which can aid them when applying for scholarships.

“I think oftentimes students forget that after they have left high school,” Moeder said. “They are accomplishing additional things that may qualify them for scholarships.”

Moeder said he also tells students that a part-time job could do more than just help pay tuition.

“The part-time job in college, especially if the student is working on campus, does a lot for the student,” Moeder said. “It helps them somehow have a better success rate in college. They are better able to budget their time between classes and work and social activities. Plus, it looks good on a resume.”

However, some students question the university’s motivation behind tuition increases. Rogers said she is among them.

“They are constantly increasing the tuition, but they really aren’t giving me a reason as to why,” Rogers said. “What are they doing for me that I started off paying them less for?”

Rogers said she understands inflation is a factor in the tuition raise, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation from 2013-14 was only 2.1 percent. Things like the Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex, the K-State Student Union and Wefald Hall are paid by using either student privilege fees or by the students who live there.

According to Cindy Bontrager, vice president for administration and finance, the 5 percent increase is due mostly to administrative costs.

“The state hasn’t funded salaries since 2008,” Bontrager said.

She said that parts of the 5 percent also go toward retention and future campus updates.

This year’s 5 percent tuition increase is also likely a response to recent state budget cuts.

Rogers said that while she believes things like the Rec are good for the student body, she is too busy to use them.

“I’m making money so that I can do these things, but I’m working so much so that I can pay for them that I can’t use them,” Rogers said.

Rogers said that during the school year, she will work about 45 hours per week. If the tuition costs were lower, she said she would be able to put more time into her classes.

“Because of how much I have to work to be able to go to my classes, I don’t get to spend the actual time I want to studying the language (German),” Rogers said.

She also said that because she works all the time, it is much harder for her to appreciate her surroundings.

“I like Manhattan and I like K-State,” Rogers said. “But I still have that chip on my shoulder because I don’t get to experience any of it.”