$56,340. That is the comprehensive tuition fee for Elizabethtown College for the 2017-2018 academic year. Tuition will be about $2,000 more than it was this year, and $4,000 more than the 2015-2016 academic year. Tuition increases happen naturally across every college throughout the U.S. and there are not any practical means for generally avoiding the increase, but the way the increases are being implemented at Etown is particularly frustrating to students and families.
To many students, they may see the $2,000 increase per year as negligible. Even though math is far from one of my favorite leisurely hobbies, it is important to calculate the totals to fully understand the significance of the numbers. Currents sophomores came in as first year students paying about $52,000. This year, they are paying about $54,000, and their junior year they will be paying about $56,000. Presumably, the $2,000 increase will continue, making their senior year’s comprehensive fee about $58,000. That is $6,000 more in tuition than the original financial aid package suggested to incoming students. When I was making my college decision, money was a major factor, along with getting a quality education. I compared schools based on the financial aid packages they offered me. When I came in as a first-year student at Etown, I was expecting my grand total after four years to be about $208,000 which is shocking in itself. Now, according to the projected increases, the grand total comes to about $220,000. That is $12,000 more than I expected to pay.
Needless to say, I was unsettled by this news, but I tried to remain optimistic, hoping I would gain some scholarship money from somewhere to help offset the costs. My mom, a single parent doing everything she possibly can to help me pay for my education, immediately began suggesting that I transfer to a more affordable school with a similar academic program. Then the college announced another major change. They would be launching a $50 million campaign to improve the college, and a large portion of the money would be spent on building a “Sports, Fitness, and Wellness Center.” This news in itself would not be so disappointing. The funds for the center are being raised privately, so the tuition increase is not being put toward its construction. Of course everyone would love some more recreation space, but announcing it in combination with the tuition increase did not sit well with me. I was not inspired counter to what the campaign suggested. The money they are spending could be better spent. The campaign promotions themselves included inspiring stories about our students and faculty, encouraging donors to contribute money to the good works that the members of our campus community complete. The center does not exactly correspond to this message of academia and service.
As if these two pieces of news were not disheartening enough, Etown gave its students a third piece of major news in an email just one day after announcing the launch of the campaign. Students received an email from the Financial Aid Office describing a change in their merit-based scholarship policy. Originally, the requirement was for students to maintain a 2.75 GPA to keep a merit-based scholarship. This standard plummeted to a requirement of just a 2.0 GPA.
“A 2.75 was a B average while 2.0 is a D average and students received these merit scholarships for being a strong academic,” sophomore Alison Parsons said. “If they cannot stay a strong academic they shouldn’t receive it.”
For a college seemingly struggling with finances and launching an expensive campaign, it is absolutely absurd for them to be throwing out money to students who should not have even been accepted to the college let alone given a huge merit-based scholarship. If they can indeed afford to handout this money to undeserving students, then they should be able to help balance the increases in our financial aid packages. The college should use the merit scholarships as incentives to do well academically.
The decisions of the college were not individually inherently bad, but the timing and the manner in which they were announced were extremely disheartening to students. Etown should have planned ahead and spaced out these major policy changes, so that students and families would have more time to process the decisions. The scholarship GPA requirement decrease is sending a message that Etown is lowering its high standards of achievement. Etown should be more selective with the students they admit to the college, so that we maintain our high academic standards. Our motto is “Educate for Service,” but Etown is doing a disservice to its high achieving students.