On March 11, 2014 Tufts announced its decision to raise tuition by nearly four percent to $61,000 next semester. Only weeks later on March 27, 2014, Tufts announced to the student body via an email entitled “Why is today #tuftsbestdayever?” that our tuition had “run out.”
However, just in case students thought this was a legitimate notice from Student Financial Services informing them their tuition had indeed ceased to cover their expenses, the email proceeded to inform students that “good news” existed in regards to this problem. In fact, “thousands of alumni and friends have stepped in to keep Tufts – and you and your friends – running through May. Because when your tuition runs out, philanthropy takes over.” At this point in the email it becomes clear that the message is in fact an attempt by the Tufts Student Fund to encourage students to donate to their alma mater.
I cannot emphasize enough how insulting it was to receive such an email. Besides the fact that the tone and language of the correspondence belittled something as serious as paying tuition, which many students and families already struggle to pay, the email also shrouds its request in patronizing rhetoric surely intended to establish some sort of connection with students.
The message encouraged students to share something about Tufts on social media that “they would really miss if it were gone tomorrow” if Tufts ran out of money to pay for it, and to include the hashtag “Tuftsbestdayever” in this social media post. Although the majority of Tufts students are avid social media users, this does not mean they wish to communicate in such childish terminology. Additionally, the message urged students to “come by the campus center from 10 – three for the celebration and cool giveaways.” The message was sent at 5:06 pm, two hours after the aforementioned event.
Six months after seniors graduate in May, those with federal or private student loans will have to start repaying that debt regardless of their employment status or salary. In fact, a close friend who graduated early in order to avoid paying another semester’s tuition will pay a sum higher than $1,500 every month for the next 15 years of his life. He is one of many seniors who will soon have to deal with the consequences of student debt.
I understand it is standard for universities nationwide to ask their students and alumni to donate money for philanthropic efforts such as financial aid, and I agree it is of the utmost importance; I could not have attended Tufts without the generosity of donors and financial aid. I do not argue that simply asking students to be generous is inappropriate.
However, I do believe the form in which Tufts asked us to donate was incorrect, and furthermore inconsiderate of the financial struggles many students and families face by incurring debt or working multiple jobs in order to pay for the privilege of a Tufts education.
There has been rampant student dissatisfaction with the university’s most recent decision to increase tuition again and the lack of funding for many critical resources such as Career Services. I guarantee that students, especially the senior class, would feel more inclined to be philanthropic if the administration made a clearer effort to be transparent and communicative about where their tuition dollars were being spent.
When seniors graduate, they will have the choice to give back to Tufts in a number of ways: they can give advice through the career network, attend Tufts alumni events, return to support athletic teams and student groups and they can donate money, if they choose.
So I invite the administration to carefully reconsider how it decides to ask the very student body it asks to pay the second highest tuition in the state of Massachusetts, to give back to Tufts.
Carolina Reyes is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Carolina.Reyes@tufts.edu.