Last week, the Board of Regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education continued the process by which they’ll raise tuition at all of the state’s colleges and universities. To make a long story short, what was once a 1.8 percent increase has jumped to 3.7 percent, to be hiked through the 2020 school year.
They say it’s necessary. That’s probably true. These increases are based on the Higher Education Price Index, or HEPI. It works much the same way any other inflation tracker does, moving up and down as the costs associated with colleges and universities — be they equipment, textbooks or even teachers — fluctuate with the market.
In an interview with The Nevada Sagebrush, Regent Jason Geddes said that if tuition was not raised to match inflation, students could suffer as a result as universities are forced to cut programs and services to meet the inflated cost of all things higher education.
This is all true, and we don’t dispute this. Inflation is a real thing, and it would be naive to say tuition should stay where it is when we know for a fact inflation isn’t staying still.
However, there are at least some regents who would like to see tuition raised another 4 percent, irrespective of what the HEPI says. It was Geddes himself who recommended a 4 point hike back when HEPI was sitting low at 1.8 percent.
“If you look at the buying power of what the tuition fees are, we did the four years at 4 percent to offset all the loss of state funds and focused that money into student programs and into student success programs that will help with all the campuses moving forward,” Geddes said.
On one hand, he has a point. By raising tuition, you are providing the funds for student programs that very well could “move the campus forward,” whatever that might mean.
On the other hand, though, these decisions don’t happen in a vacuum and the money doesn’t come from thin air. Students, often students who are riding the edge of poverty to begin with, will have to find hundreds more dollars they didn’t have yesterday in order to foot this bill.
Student loans are the single largest source of debt for all Americans, topping out at nearly $1.5 trillion, according to the financial services firm Student Loan Hero. While tuition at UNR is relatively cheap, especially compared to California schools that routinely charge $60,000+ per year, the reality is still bleak.
If students today want the education their parents received, if they want to excel in a world that more and more requires post-secondary education, they must pay tens of thousands of dollars in the process.
Few but the wealthiest of all Americans have the funds to pay that out of pocket, and often times scholarships and grant money are not enough alone to stave off dreaded student loans. Moreover, the people taking these loans are often the same people struggling to make ends meet as rents climb and food insecurity becomes a real fear.
So yes, by and large it seems NSHE could use a tuition increase. But the amount by which it increases still matters, and the Board of Regents should not forget the young people they’re forcing to pay the price.
The Editorial Board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.