I am a proud Cornellian. As a second-semester senior, I can easily say that I have experienced the roller coaster of ups and downs that virtually every Cornellian before me has felt. Regardless of what highs and lows this school has brought me to, I truly believe that this school, and the students in it, are a testament to what an elite education can do for both the individual and society as a whole. Cornell is, quite simply, a remarkable institution, with brilliant professors and students. Unfortunately, the university’s administration is a great stain on an otherwise incredible and noble history. In past columns, I have described the problems with the administration’s compulsive spending and inattention to the needs of lower-income students.
The important number for the university’s financial stability is actually net tuition revenue: undergraduate tuition minus financial aid. In other words, how much money does Cornell get from tuition after it pays out financial aid. If net tuition revenue is not growing as fast as costs, the university will eventually have to make some cuts to spending or find ways to increase revenue.
“It is likely to increase each year,” he said. “That is the norm that we are expecting unless we scale back on our ambitions, which I don’t have any interest in doing and I don’t think Cornellians have any interest in doing.”
The approved 3.75 percent increase in tuition will help address the rising operating costs of the University, according to Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the graduate school. Among the areas covered with the increased undergraduate tuition will be faculty and staff salaries and benefits, academic program investments and facilities maintenance and utilities, according to Knuth. Additionally, she said the University aims to “realize sufficient tuition revenue to sustain the quality and value of a Cornell education” and “provide access to education for deserving students regardless of their ability to pay” when setting to yearly tuition rates. “If we did not continue to invest in our people, programs and facilities, the quality of a Cornell education would quickly degrade,” Knuth said. Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced last Thursday that undergraduate tuition will rise 3.75 percent in the 2016-17 academic year.
Cries of “the students united will not be defeated!” filled Ho Plaza Thursday afternoon when nearly a hundred students banded together for the Million Student March and demanded tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, a $15 minimum wage for campus workers and immediate divestment from fossil fuel corporations. Despite a student’s post on social media calling for its cancellation, students gathered on the steps of Willard Straight Hall at 3 p.m. for the march, which was organized by the Cornell Independent Students’ Union for a national event with more than 100 participating colleges. An hour before the march, a student posted on the Facebook event page a screenshot of a CISU statement of the union’s demands, underlining a portion of the sentence, “Alongside students, faculty must demand that low-income and colored people traditionally excluded by the status quo, are invited into the university system.”
Pointing to the phrase “colored people,” the student said in her post that she found it insensitive. “This is NOT okay. CISU needs to be held accountable.
President Elizabeth Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life, held a question and answer forum during Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting that allowed students to bring up issues that included diversity, financial aid and sexual assault on campus. “We intend to work with you to continue to strive to provide excellent education in the classroom, outside the classroom, in our community and throughout the world,” Garrett said. She added that in order for her and Lombardi to effectively step into their new roles at the University, they know they must listen to student voices and perspectives. Samari Gilbert ’17, co-president of Black Students United, started the question portion of the forum by asking Garrett how she would take the concerns of students of color more seriously. Garrett responded by pointing out Cornell’s history of egalitarian culture and added that there are many different types of diversity.
In the midst of a national financial crisis, college students must face the additional burden of increased tuition costs. Tuition for the current academic year for private institutions increased by 5.9 percent and by 6.4 percent for in-state public colleges, according to College Board’s most recent pricing report. The inflation rate for the same period was less, at 5.6 percent.
Though average tuition outpaced inflation for another year, most colleges decided not to increase tuition relative to inflation as much as in past years, acting “socially responsible,” according to Prof. Ronald Ehrenberg, industrial and labor relations and economics.
While the federal government continues marathon economic sessions in Washington over the current economic crisis, there are concerns about future funding for government programs. The Bush administration recently warned Congress that $6 billion more would be needed next year to keep up with demands placed on the Pell Grant program — the largest student aid program of the U.S.
Before the current economic crisis, the Pell Grant program was already weakened by yearly grant increases that did not match the rapidly growing tuition rates across the country.
Now, the possibility of less funding may weaken the program more than ever.