SGA President Chris Marlin sounds off on tuition increase
By Bj White
Student Government President Chris Marlin graciously agreed to an interview regarding his thoughts on the recent tuition increase proposal that passed last Thursday. The interview took place Monday afternoon, less than four days after the proposal passed.
LC: We know that you must have a lot of mixed feelings about the tuition increase. Who or what is at the center of your angst regarding the increase?
Marlin: A lot of students are going to want to blame the university for [the increase], and I’ve sat down and thought long and hard about who’s to blame. As I’ve said before, the blame is on the state legislators. They had to make the decision whether to cut higher education and to use that money to fund other programs or to raise taxes, and keep higher education where it’s at… they chose to cut higher education and to walk away from their sessions saying, “I didn’t raise taxes,” and to make themselves look good politically. What they really did is tax any family in the state of Kentucky who wants to put their child through college.
LC: Have you had discussions with student government representatives from other universities in the state?
Marlin: Yes. Basically, we’re all in the same boat, it was just a matter of how much. Some universities also increased parking on top of the tuition increase; there are other fees involved and we all agree that it is a problem with state legislature than with our respective universities. We agree that it’s a problem with our state’s politicians, and they need to decide what it’s going to be, tobacco or youth.
LC: Talk a little about the discussions that you’ve had with President Ramsey regarding the increase.
Marlin: We had many discussions, and I let him know that I was pretty much not in favor, and I went into his office Tuesday with a list of items I was going to argue on to try to limit the tuition increase. To his credit, the man sat there and listened to every single one and discussed every one with me, instead of seeing me out the door. It made me realize that he had done everything he could, and he discussed it right on my level. You can’t ask more than that. Plus, he is a master of budgets; he did the Kentucky state budget for years, so he knows what he is doing.
One of the things that I was sure to bring up in discussions with him is the “dead weight” around the university. There is a lot of talk about the increase in salary for faculty and staff, and I completely agree. If you want the best education, you need the best staff and faculty. However, while I support giving increases to the best, if you are not benefiting this university, I do not support giving those people salary increases. I feel that the university could probably save money there. For some reason, it is the culture around universities that you don’t do layoffs, like a regular company. Economic times are hard on our faculty and staff, but they’re also hard on our students. This is a frustration of mine.
LC: What about students who don’t see the entire picture. How would you address misconceptions that are inevitable with an increase like this?
Marlin: I wish I could sit down and have a half-hour discussion with every student, but it just isn’t possible. The misconceptions are that tuition increases are standard policy and that it’s just another way to stick it to the students. But this really isn’t intended to hurt the students, our increase is the lowest increase in the state… all across the country, tuition is going up, and in this situation, for our increase to be the lowest in the state is great. And, no, this tuition increase is not going to Rick Pitino’s salary. I’ve heard that one quite a few times. I can assure you 100% that none of this money is going to pay his salary. There are a lot of other people around this city that want to make sure he gets paid, so students don’t have to worry about that.
Students are going to put the blame right at the president of the university. They’re going to say, “You don’t care about us,” and, “You don’t understand our situation.” I would tell them to look at the pathetic state politicians who are doing this to you, but to think that every dollar you pay is an investment in your future, to understand that every dollar you spend on tuition you will make back tenfold. If they can look in the long run, it’s tough not to think right now, but just try to look to the future.
LC: What about efforts made by the university to make this easier for students?
Marlin: Financial aid is going to be increased. However, the university needs to examine how to spread financial aid around. There are some students who have two and three full-tuition scholarships. Maybe the university needs to limit how many you can have to one or maybe two. There are a lot of deserving students out there, but the money is tied up. The university needs to look at ways to spread out the money better.
LC: What do you think could be done in the future to help avoid additional tuition increases?
Marlin: In a perfect world, tuition would never go up. I would want the university to always hold to a 7% increase cap, other than in times of extraordinary circumstances, in a standard year. The university has been really good at holding increases at or below that 7%, but we really got blindsided this time, and the president is now just playing the cards that he’s been dealt.
LC: So, is President Ramsey aware of this “7%” tuition cap that you spoke of?
Marlin: He is aware of it, but keep in mind that it is not written anywhere, but it has been discussed. I have brought it up to him. I told him that if he only increased the tuition by 7%, he would never hear a word from me against it. I pushed as hard as I could for it; we put things on the table to try to get it down to the magic 7%, and I really think that we got as close as we could. Students need to vote and show these legislators, to make a statement that they’re not getting reelected if they continue to cut higher education.