University of the District of Columbia students gained an apparent victory over the system when their university lowered and spread out a highly protested and steep tuition increase for next year. The original plan was to raise tuition from $3,800 to $7,000 a year for full-time, four-year District residents, but instead (with help from the stimulus package) students will pay an added $1,600 for the fall semester and then $1,700 more the next year. But in reality, did they really score a victory?
I hate huge tuition bills just as much as everyone else. I don’t know if I will ever stop cringing every time I see, hear or think about how much I pay to have the pleasure of being here every day. I admit the cost of college these days is just a little bonkers. But I see value in what I am paying for every year, which is why my family signs over that check each semester.
While GW and UDC are very different institutions these days, a few decades ago GW was a commuter school and a bargain. As the quality of GW’s programs, buildings and reputations grew, especially with former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s administration, so did tuition. No big surprises there.
Short of personally interrogating UDC President Allen Sessoms, I will just have to venture a guess that UDC is not trying to be evil and milk more from its students – quite the opposite. The tuition hike is a necessary component in attempting to enrich UDC and the college experience it can offer its students. The plan is to increase the standards and rigor of the four-year university component and bring it into a better position to compete with higher-level colleges.
At the same time, the plan will install a community college component in order to keep education accessible to everyone. Costs for the community college will go down and, understandably, costs for the four-year college will go up. UDC even promised to increase financial aid and help students pay for college. Not a bad plan if you think about it, especially since UDC students will be getting more bang for their buck.
This improvement plan should have been met with excitement, not condemnation. UDC is trying to better itself and grow its reputation. This can only help current, past and future students achieve more in life. Sure, it may cost a little more for those who have the ability to pay, but you have to spend money to make money. Also keep in mind that even $7,000 a year is a bargain when compared with other state schools, such as Penn State University, where the 2008-2009 tuition for residents came to $13,014.
UDC should be applauded not only for its noble efforts to grow, but also for its willingness to step back and listen to student opinion. Still, it is important to remember not to be blinded by sticker shock and see through the price tag to the true value of your education.
At least that is what I tell my parents each semester.
The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.
Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this column.