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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis ranks second-most expensive in MA

Published: August 24, 2012
Section: News

This year’s 4.1 percent tuition and fees increase made Brandeis the second most expensive college in Massachusetts, ranking behind only Williams, and ahead of Boston College, Boston University and Babson, according to a Boston Business Journal report published in May.

The primary purpose of raising an extra $8.6 million in funds with the tuition increase is to “improve the academic and residential experience” at Brandeis, Associate Vice President of Communications Bill Burger said. Students will see physical improvements to campus, such as renovations to East Quad and the new coffee shop to be built in Goldfarb Library, he said.

Burger also stressed that there will be new academic programs to build community through education. Brandeis will try a new series of humanities and social justice-oriented first-year seminars called JustBooks, and there will be new living-learning communities for first-years.  The communities focus on “Media, Politics and Society” or “Global Connections,” and will foster closer relationships with faculty.

Academic advising and career counseling will improve as more counselors are hired for Academic Services and the Hiatt Career Center. Foreign language classes, a general education requirement for all, will become smaller and more intimate in size, whether at the introductory or advanced level. And Library and Technology Services (LTS), which suffered in the economic crisis, will become a stronger resource. Burger said Brandeis plans to hire more librarians who are specialists in their subjects, improve information security, replace many campus computers, and protect historical archives stored in the library.

The Student Union will also benefit from extra funds this year, said Elly Kalfus ’13, a Student Union Finance Board member. The Union receives 1 percent of the total tuition funds, which the Finance Board distributes to chartered clubs. “More funds will mean more money is allocated to new clubs that were just chartered last semester,” Kalfus said. These clubs include a March of Dimes chapter and a Korean cultural learning initiative.

Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel said in April that he hopes extra funds will help solve the problem of overcrowding on campus, writing in an email to the Brandeis community that with about 100 fewer first-year students enrolled this year, it should help alleviate housing concerns.

“Chief among this year’s concerns was moderating the growth of our student body, both lowering the size of select classes and decreasing the number of incoming first-year students,” Flagel wrote in April.

Many returning students, however, view the 4.1 percent tuition increase as an added financial burden on themselves and their families at a time when the job market is tough, college is more expensive than ever, and a college degree does not automatically guarantee financial success.

When news of the tuition hike broke in April, a group of students immediately organized a “We Are The 99 Percent Week” campaign, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests, to express their financial concerns.

The reaction is still mixed among students. Some question whether improvements to campus are necessary if they will ultimately contribute to more student debt. Others worry that they themselves, as well as future students, won’t be able to afford a Brandeis education despite the fact that, according to Burger, 7 percent of the increase will be funds allotted to increasing financial aid.

“If we continue to raise tuition, fewer students and families would be able to afford to attend Brandeis. A good education should not be exclusively for those who have a lot of money; higher education is a right for everybody, not a privilege for the wealthy,” Clifton Masdea ’15 said.

Jassen Lu ’15 said the tuition increase “puts great strain on my family … and would force many people to take loans to pay for tuition,” which means that those who plan to attend graduate school will enter with undergraduate debt. “It would also discourage many future applicants from coming to Brandeis as well, so it’s unfair to them too,” Lu said.

Damiana Andonova ’15 acknowledged that the extra tuition does benefit students, directly or indirectly, and said that private universities can raise tuition because it does not “lock in.”
Still, she believes that a tuition increase is only fair if financial aid increases proportionally.

“I do worry for myself and fellow Brandeisians’ financial welfare in the future,” Andonova said. “In this economic climate, it is hard to say I knew exactly what I was getting into, financially speaking. We’re supposed to go to college to secure a financially promising future, weren’t we?”