By Dennis O’Niel
The incoming Class of 2011 will pay 9.9 percent more than the Class of 2010 when they entered the University of Louisville. The 2007-08 hike marks the fifth year in a row that tuition has gone up at the University of Louisville.
Incoming students may ask, why the tuition hike, and what will the money pay for?
According to Vice President for Finance Mike Curtin, state funding for higher education has gone steadily down over the years, forcing many Kentucky institutions to raise tuition.
“There is a mentality in many state legislatures that college education satisfies more of a private good than a public good,” Curtin said. “So, as state funding goes down, tuition goes up.”
According to U of L’s operating budget for the 2007-08, part of the increase will go towards student financial aid and improving education.
An estimated $3 million was allocated for financial aid, and an additional $13 million will be invested in students’ education experiences such as the newly developed Quality Enhancement Plan, which is geared towards improving critical thinking skills in the classroom.
Curtin said the process of formulating the rate of increase took over eight months. Many parties of the university weighed in on the issue, including faculty, students and the administration.
On April 5, a 9.9 percent increase, which is below the Council on Postsecondary Education’s recommended 13 percent, was approved by the U of L Board of Trustees.
And although the tuition hike was lower than in previous years-last year’s tuition went up 13 percent-there was great disapproval from the student body.
Fighting over fees
Some of the most heated controversies were over various student fees included in tuition that were either added or increased last semester.
In February, the Board of Trustees re-authorized a $50 athletic fee to students levied for the U of L Athletics Department. This action was met with harsh criticism from the Student Government Association, whose president is a voting Board member. The SGA stated that the Board violated a clause in a 2002 athletic fee proposal, stating that the fee cannot be renewed until an evaluation of the tuition increase is brought before the SGA Senate.
Despite the dispute between the university and student administrations, the Board re-reinstated the fee on Feb. 21 for all students.
Emilie McKiernan, who will be pursuing a master’s in English this fall, said she disapproved of the athletic fee. She said she would like to see some of that money benefiting regular students, not just athletes.
Curtin said the athletic fee was instituted largely because of student access to athletic facilities and resources on campus. He also said it was to help the athletic program, which often operates as its own financial entity, covering many of its own expenses separate from the university budget.
Another fee that caused confusion and discontent among the student body was the 2006 health fee. After multiple disputes and protests from students over the disorganized implementation of the fee, the rate remains at $100 for uninsured students and $35 for insured students. To receive the $65 reduction, students should declare their insurance provider on U-Link.
When asked if students should expect other fees to pop up in the coming next year, Curtin said, “There has been no more discussion about other institutional fees that I’m aware of.”
All tuition rates and student fees are voted on by the Board of Trustees, which meets monthly. Students are welcome to sit on meetings, which are open to the public. The meeting schedule and agenda are posted online at http://louisville.edu/president/trustees/schedule/.
Increasing financial aid
The university’s 2007-08 operating budget allocated an extra $3 million for student financial aid.
Curtin said he thinks new financial aid programs such as the new Cardinal Covenant, which was developed to help lower income students cover tuition, will ease students’ financial burdens.
More than 8,278 need-based students received financial aid last year, according to Financial Aid Director Patricia Arauz.
The average financial aid package for a freshman in fall 2006 was $9,110, and the percent of first-year students receiving financial aid was 56.5 percent, university figures state.
Brad Palmer, who will be a first-year law student at the U of L Brandeis School of Law, said that in applying to law schools around the country, U of L offered him the best financial situation by far.
“At U of L, I only need to remain in good standing in order to keep my financial aid,” Palmer said. “At other schools, I would have had to stay in the top quarter of my class.”
Palmer also said if a student wishes to go out of state, they should be prepared to pay far more than they would for U of L.
Students can also find financial aid from other places within the university, said senior Ally Hohmann, a criminology and communication major.
“Honors societies and Dean’s Lists, even some fraternities offer scholarships,” Hohmann said as advice to incoming students. “Use your abilities the best you can,” she said.