Emory recently announced its plan to increase tuition by nearly 4%, a move that disregards the widespread financial hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic. We implore the Emory administration to reconsider this policy and rescind the increase.
Although Emory promises to meet students’ demonstrated need through financial aid, this promise is not sufficient compensation for the added financial pressures that students have endured during the pandemic and the tuition increase. Additionally, since the administration announced the tuition increase before it released financial aid packages for the next academic year, low-income students are now uncertain of their ability to attend classes in the fall.
Even for low-income students eligible for aid, they are still required to pay a share of their earnings for their college costs. Low-income students face a dilemma: they can continue working part time, thereby risking exposure to COVID-19, or forgo higher education entirely. Even if low-income students wish to work part time, many cannot — young adults under 24 have contributed to more than 40% of COVID-19-related job losses. Between March and August 2020, 33% of lower-income households witnessed a family member lose a job, and 46% had trouble paying bills. Those who kept their jobs still suffered from pay cuts or limited working hours. These impacts are more pronounced within African American and Hispanic communities. Emory’s tuition increase puts them in an increasingly difficult position, as underprivileged families are already struggling to afford rent and groceries each month. Financial aid is not enough to help low-income students finish their degrees.
Other groups like international students, who constitute 17% of Emory’s student population, are only eligible for financial aid if they applied for support when they initially applied to Emory. Amid a pandemic that has destroyed 22.2 million full-time jobs in the U.S. and 225 million jobs worldwide, families are experiencing unprecedented hardships. International students that were not in need of financial aid when they applied to Emory might be in urgent need now.
Emory may still have online classes this fall, and the quality of remote learning hardly seems worth $72,964. Emory’s decision to maintain mostly online classes this semester was necessary given the public health concerns, but it comes at the cost of sacrificing a collaborative, community-based learning experience. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the next school year, it seems the only thing Emory is certain of is increasing our tuition. Many costs have been removed from Emory’s burden, but now building upkeep costs, internet bandwidth and access to technology all fall as a burden on students to navigate through online learning. The frustrations of online learning, lack of access to academic resources and loss of study spaces has even pushed some students to take a gap year rather than another semester online. In an interview with the Wheel, Yuxuan Zhu (20Ox, 22C) cited worsening quality of classes and high tuition as reasons that propelled her to take a gap semester, saying that “I might not have taken a gap semester if the tuition decreased when classes went online.”
While other higher education institutions have considered increasing tuition to match inflation, a majority of universities have decided to freeze tuition increases for the 2020-21 academic year. Moreover, even many of the few private universities that raised their tuition still did so at lower rates than Emory: Brown University (R.I.), for example, approved a 2.85% increase compared to Emory’s 4% increase.
Emory’s tuition increase is especially thoughtless given that the enormous burden of student debt in the U.S. has worsened considerably since the pandemic began. Some students have even stopped making loan payments in hopes of debt forgiveness. Steep tuition prices, overwhelming student debt and recent financial difficulties have forced many students into a state of desperation as they make plans for careers in an uncertain future. In short, this is not the time to ask us for more money.
Emory’s audacity to pursue financial gain over prioritizing students’ well-being shows a tremendous disregard for its own students. Tuition costs have increased nationwide by over 35% in the last decade, while the quality of education has plummeted. The University must roll back its proposed tuition hike and reconsider the monumental impact that its financial decisions have on students. If not, the University will reveal its guise of accommodating students’ needs as nothing but a platitude.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Brammhi Balarajan, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Sophia Ling, Martin Shane Li, Demetrios Mammas, Meredith McKelvey, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Leah Woldai, Lynnea Zhang and Yun Zhu.