Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Univ. hides fact that tuition increases aren’t necessary

Published: December 4, 2014
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

The biannual stress surrounding finals and the end of the semester is always compounded by the university sending out the bill for the next semester’s tuition right before the Thanksgiving break. Adding to typical holiday stresses with family visiting and birds to be stuffed, plus those from school itself, sending the bill at this time seems almost maniacal. Just the reminder that you owe a large sum of money to a school that is currently putting you through hell seems inconsiderate. Yet the school needs to make sure families are given an adequate amount of time to pay before classes begin in the spring.

However, not everyone receives a regular bill from the school—or at least one that asks for a tuition payment. Looking at the payment options on the Office of Student Financial Services website, at the very bottom of the page, is the “Tuition Stabilization Plan.” Looking at the fact sheet related to it, this plan allows students, or parents, to prepay tuition for future semesters at the current rate. Basically, for an incoming first-year for the class of 2019, they can pay for their 2018-2019 academic year tuition at the cost for the 2014-2015 academic year, simply because they are able to.

There are some variations in the plan, such as being able to prepay for anywhere from four semesters to eight semesters, but families are able to forego agonizing about the inevitable rise in tuition that comes every year and just pay for tuition. While this only covers tuition costs, and not room and board costs or other fees (so those on the stabilization plan still receive a bill), it makes a huge difference to be able to pay for tuition all at once. Tuition for the 2013-2014 year was $44,380, and that rose to $46,022 for the 2014-2015 year, a difference of over $1,600. Over the standard four-year education, that’s a savings of over $9,600, enough to buy a decent used car, if you assume tuition will rise by $1,600 each year over four years.

This plan produces a class-based dilemma as well, since it makes it so that people with the money to prepay tuition pay less tuition overall, increasing the disparity between the very rich and the rest (if only slightly, in the big picture). If tuition stabilization is made available for the very rich, then it should be available for all students.

The university barely advertises this option when educating students and families on ways to afford and pay for Brandeis, instead choosing to highlight the generous financial aid packages awarded. Of course not everyone has $184,088 in liquid assets lying around to pay for four years’ worth of tuition at once, but imagine if every incoming student took advantage of this plan and paid all four years of tuition at once without regarding the certain rise in the cost of tuition. When that fourth year rolls around, there’s sure to be some sort of pitfall in the accounting books. I mean, that must be why the school has to raise tuition by over $1,500 every year, even though other market indicators like minimum wage don’t increase at the same rate.

But even if Bill Gates funded the entire class of 2019’s tuition costs using the stabilization plan, the school wouldn’t be facing any major problems when that fourth year rolled around. Of course the funds usually reserved for grants and scholarships wouldn’t have to be given out, and this would cover the difference in the lower tuition costs. But the simple fact that the school is willing to admit that it’s fine to pay tuition four years in advance at the current rate means that there is no justification for the university to raise tuition each and every year. Yet tuition will still rise for the next academic year even though this basic admittal is published on the school’s website.

And while the school is already extremely generous in handing out financial aid to students, so the rise in tuition does not affect them as much as others, those who pay out of pocket or take out private loans are very much affected. $9,600 is a great deal of money to potentially lose out on, and when you think of the interest that could accrue on an extra $9,600 for those that take out loans, that comes out to even more money lost. It is even possible that someone might decide to take out a giant loan to cover all four years of tuition at the stabilized rate instead of taking out loans for each year—though it probably would be difficult to find a bank to hand out a loan over $180,000.

Still, the university is basically pulling numbers out of thin air when they tell students each year that tuition is once again being raised. There is no need to raise tuition each year when people are still struggling to find jobs, including recent graduates, when others—specifically others who don’t actually need the help—are able to pay tuition at a flat rate.