February 12, 2019

EDITORIAL: Cornell, You May Be a Fan of Hills, but Where Does This One End?

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What followed the Board of Trustees announcement about the the 2020 fiscal year budget and the corresponding 3.6 percent tuition hike? An implicit announcement aimed at members of the Class of 2020: their tuition has increased 11.5 percent since they committed to the Red.

The University boasted that this tuition rise was the smallest in recent years. This year’s increase comes in at $6 less than last year’s raise — that’s a single venti coffee with a shot of espresso at Cornell Dining, to put things in perspective.

Maybe Cornellians should consider themselves lucky. It’s an average 3.6 percent rise in tuition, compared to Brown’s 5 percent and Yale’s 3.8 percent. From the University’s perspective, the increase — $1,966 for endowed colleges and $1,316 for land-grant schools — might seem like chump change.

But, we hate to break it to you: Though universities may be need-blind, students are not.

Provost Michael Kotlikoff told The Sun that “Cornell is not socioeconomically diverse.” Maybe that’s because a limited scope of people can handle year-to-year $2,000-increases with a few months notice.

This latest announcement is indicative of a gross trend in the United States — ballooning tuition costs.

Today’s tuition, ringing in at a solid $56,550 for endowed college students and $37,880 for contract college students, does not consider the additional costs students are expected to shoulder. Like the 3.25 percent increase in room and board (which puts the true cost of attendance over $71,000 for endowed colleges). Or textbooks. Or a bus pass. Or travel costs.

A tuition increase itself is not criminal. But Cornell, where does this end?

The tuition in 1968 also rose. It climbed by $150, to $2,200. So it seems that Cornell raising its tuition is one of the more consistent things over the past 50 years. But Cornell, if you add up our four-year tuition, it is more than the median price for a home in the United States. A house, or a degree?

Should students assume that this increase in tuition is indefinite? Will today’s graduates be able to afford tuition if their children chose to come here? If the current four-year trend continues, tuition will double every 20 years. Just imagine: In a generation, your proud Big Red family could be cutting a check to Cornell for $142,000 … per year.

If Cornell really is the most “democratic” Ivy, and if these changes are for the students, then this needs to stop. If we want to economically diversify our school, we should find more options to make it affordable and not remain on this indefinite incline of tuition increases.

This year’s smaller jump is a start — and we’ll certainly enjoy that “extra” venti coffee with a shot of espresso (we at The Sun certainly need it). Not only does Cornell’s ever-heftier price tag scare people, but the thought of being asked to produce $2,000 more for the next school year to continue one’s education can be downright panic-inducing. And that’s not even considering the long-term implications of this Sisyphean endeavor.

It’s more clear than ever that something needs to change. We were the first Ivy-League to accept women, why not try and be a tuition trailblazer, too?