Statement on High Tuition/High Aid

. Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Student Liberation Front, a relatively new group of undergraduates who are a part of the UW SWC, recently wrote this piece on the failure of the "High Tuition/High Aid" model!

Public Statement on the High Tuition/High Aid Model

by the UW Student Liberation Front (SLF)

Low tuition and high aid in the form of need-based grants are NOT incompatible. In fact, both are necessary to keep UW truly accessible and public. Calling for one but not the other will only push low-income students, students of color, women, queer folks, and students with disabilities out of the university; effectively transforming UW into a whiter, elitist institution for the wealthy. President Emmert has justified his move towards higher tuition by promising higher financial aid for low-income students through grant programs like the Husky Promise. This high tuition/high aid model is a failed strategy to bring in more low-income youth in both the short and long-term. In their seminal research report entitled "Losing by Degrees," the Economic Opportunity Institute showed that universities across the nation that have adopted this model have resulted in significant REDUCTIONS, not increases, of enrollment by low-income students and students of color. At the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (UM), enrollment of freshmen from households earning less than $75,000 dropped from 34.6% in 1997 to 26.6% in 2007; enrollment of black students decreased from 8.4% in 1999 to 6.7% in 2008. Predicting that the same may happen at UW in the short-term, perhaps this is why Emmert has already hit the road promoting the Husky Promise. In the long-term, the high aid in the form of grants will likely drop, leaving only a high tuition model in place. We already see this trend happening with Governor Gregoire's first draft of the 2010 supplemental budget, which will cut the State Need-Based Grant program by $146.4 million, causing 12,300 students to lose their grants. By his own admission of Gregoire's budget, Emmert wrote that "the 7,000 students [currently on the Husky Promise] would be unable to continue." Emmert has provided no solution to keeping the Husky Promise and need-based grants outside blaming Olympia; meanwhile, tuition of in-state residents will be increasing at least 28% this year and next combined, and Emmert is pushing to see the Kilmer Bill passed so that the Board of Regents have full tuition setting ability, a euphemism for unrestricted control to hike up tuition far beyond this 28%. Why has Emmert devoted so much effort to hike up tuition through Olympia but not to preserve need-based grants?
This riddle could be solved simply by looking at the unwritten premise behind the Husky Promise and the high tuition/high aid model. On paper, the Husky Promise is a "guarantee to Washington state students that we will not let financial challenges stand in the way of...achieving a UW degree." This sugar coating Promise was strategic in convincing low-income students that they could still access the university and projecting Emmert as a friend to working-class families, while deeper changes of privatization of the university could simultaneously occur unnoticed. Three years later amid a state budget crisis, Emmert's call for higher tuition instead of lower tuition and more grants is revealing not only the priorities of the Regents, but also the initial underlying purpose behind the Husky Promise: privatization via tuition hikes for students. Privatization essentially means less state input and more corporate control over UW, as evidenced by the Regents sitting on the boards of various big businesses. By increasing tuition and student services fees, the Regents have a secure source of money outside state funding that can be freely used to fund corporate projects and priorities and to leverage further investment. This explains why workers have been easily cut, at the same time that construction of new facilities and labs are occurring, so long as the Regents believe the latter is profit-generating. We are witnessing a wholesale deprioritization of education at UW (layoffs of workers who maintain classrooms, increased class sizes) and a shift to profit-generating activities such as research. If Emmert believes that education is public and a priority of UW, then he would have pushed for low tuition and increased grant aid for low-income students. The UW Student Liberation Front is demanding low tuition and increased financial aid in the form of grants. We are fighting for the preservation of the Husky Promise, and re-envisioning it not as a means to increase tuition, as Emmert wants, but as an ends because low-income students have a right to higher education. The Student Liberation Front meets on Mondays at 7:00pm in Suzzallo Cafe. -Veryl Pow UW Student Liberation Front (