STORY BY TIM WEBBER
In last week’s edition of the Times-Delphic, we heard several students share their visions for new President Earl Martin’s first actions in office.
They were all fantastic ideas and all need to be addressed as soon as possible, especially the one concerning the pencil sharpeners in Meredith and Harvey Ingham, but there’s one aspect of life at Drake that wasn’t mentioned: money. I found this curious; after all, the increase in tuition was one of the biggest and most talked-about stories on campus after break.
While we must give due diligence to diversity and have a heart for Hubbell, if there’s one thing that Martin can start on right away that will have an impact on all students, it’s making sure that the money we spend on tuition is used wisely.
If Martin succeeds in this endeavor, the rate of increase for our tuition should slow or even stop. That’s not just change we can believe in — that’s real change, back in our pockets. No student at Drake is going to complain about that.
Now, let me point out that an increase in tuition rates is normal — inflation causes prices to rise. That’s why 90-cent gas doesn’t exist anymore, and why you can’t get into a movie theater with just a quarter. An increase in the cost to attend college should be expected, but the speed at which Drake’s rates are rising is astonishing.
The new tuition plan outlined for the next school year will increase tuition by 4.52 percent, on the heels of a 4.4 percent increase from last year to this year.
The current rate of inflation? 0.76 percent, according to WolframAlpha.
Want perspective? In the past 15 years, Drake tuition has more than doubled in cost (before inflation). If tuition remained at 1999 levels and was only adjusted for inflation, we would still be paying just $24,041 per year, nearly $10,000 less.
Perhaps an economics major could explain the situation better than me, but as I see it, by some measures, Drake tuition is increasing twice as fast as inflation. By others, it’s rising five times as fast.
If you were in a gardening competition, and someone’s plant grew five times as fast as everyone else’s, you’d probably get a little suspicious. Sure, there might be other factors at work, just like inflation isn’t the only thing that causes an increase in tuition. But seriously? Five times as fast? You’d probably want someone to check that out.
Fortunately, you can judge for yourself. The school’s budget is available online, if you dig deep enough. I encourage you to check it out for yourself — it may be surprising just how much it costs to run a university.
At the same time, the budget does raise some questions. For example, in 2013, Drake budgeted exactly zero dollars on alcohol education. That number seems a little low.
Meanwhile, in 2014, the budgeted expenses for something called “print management” nearly doubled, increasing by $200,000.
But enough numbers. Take a look around campus. I go to every basketball game that I’m able to, but even I think the new practice facility reeks of frivolity. The adequate concrete bridge on the west side of Olmsted underwent two months of inconvenient renovations to become a slightly more adequate concrete bridge. And Drake lakes, while endearing, need to be fixed eventually.
I mean this with no disrespect to Maxwell, who has been a fantastic leader for this university. I’m no expert on financial decisions, and for the most part I believe Maxwell has made excellent decisions that have propelled Drake forward, ahead of most institutions in the country.
Even so, when Martin sits down with the board of trustees, the first words out of his mouth should be “How can we ease the financial burden on our students?”