Tufts Student Action (TSA)’s #HaltTheHike campaign released a list of demands on Nov. 1, calling for a halt in tuition increases, greater financial transparency and better financial aid resources.
According to TSA member Parker Breza, the group is responding to the 3.6 percent increase in tuition that was announced in an email sent out in April by Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser and Dean of the School of Engineering Jianmin Qu.
“[TSA] is a group of students devoted to racial, economic and gender justice … [Our] campaign right now is HaltTheHike … so we’re focusing on making sure that Tufts is accountable, transparent and accessible to everyone like it claims to be,” Breza, a sophomore, said.
TSA is calling for a halt on tuition increases for the 2017-2018 academic year and for their demands to be met before any future tuition hikes are put in place. The organization is also asking for a meeting with university administrators, according to their list of demands.
The demands, which are a continuation of another list made in the spring by TSA, were finalized through sessions designed as forums for student input, with intentional outreach to different communities at Tufts, according to Breza.
“We wanted to make sure that … these demands were in line with what our different communities need on campus. … [That] meant specific outreach to … low income students, students of color, undocumented students, international students [and] students on significant financial aid,” Breza said.
One major theme of #HaltTheHike is a call for greater transparency in Tufts’ budget, including clarity on tuition bills and justification for tuition increases, according to the list of demands.
“Tuition just went up $2,000 this year, but I have no idea where that money is going,” Breza said. “We want clarity on where that money is going, so that we know that every single dollar that is being spent is actually going to help us out in our education.”
The #HaltTheHike demands also include a need for greater community input in the budgeting process.
“Currently almost all [of] the budgeting is done behind closed doors by administrators and is approved by trustees without any input from students, faculty or staff,” Breza said. “I think that this is a huge short sight [sic] considering that these are the people that have to deal with the effects of the way that the university does finances and budget managing, so I think it’s vital that all of these members are included equally in the conversation.”
TSA is also demanding that the Financial Aid Office become more accessible to students by increasing office hours and the number of financial aid officers, so that they can focus on meeting students’ needs.
“Most colleges have open office hours that students can go to for financial aid resources. Our university has one set of office hours on Thursday afternoons. That’s simply unacceptable,” Breza said.
In their list of demands, TSA also calls for increased spending on financial aid, especially for minority students.
“If there’s not enough money being allocated to financial aid, but there’s excess money in other parts of the university, then we need to look at why that is, and why increasing diversity within our student body … is not being made a priority,” Breza said.
TSA is also calling for Tufts to move back to a need-blind admissions policy, which the university had practiced when admitting the classes of 2011 and 2012, according to an April 2009 Daily article. In the article, the admissions team said it was unable to continue this practice due to severe economic constraints.
When Tufts was need-blind, the article explained, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions made its acceptance decisions without taking an applicant’s financial need into account.
“[Without a need-blind admissions policy,] Tufts University is able to look at student’s financial need and reject students because they’re too high of financial need [sic],” Breza said.
TSA also is demanding an end to out-of-pocket charges for on-campus concerts and parties as well as university-sponsored events. According to the list of demands, accountability for these charges falls at least in part on Tufts Community Union (TCU) Treasury, an organization comprised solely of undergraduate students.
“Every Tufts student pays a student activities fee … as part of your tuition, so that should mean that you have access to all student activity opportunities on campus,” Benya Kraus, a TSA member and Diversity and Community Affairs Officer for TCU Senate, said.
Kraus, a junior, said that #HaltTheHike campaign’s demands may lead to challenges for TCU in balancing its budget, but that it was worth the extra work.
“It’s going to present challenges, like who’s going to be looking at your financial need, but I think that the demands are pushing us to ask those questions,” she said.
Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of public relations, said that the Tufts administration has received TSA’s list of demands and is interested in meeting with the group in the future.
“Tufts has taken significant steps to control tuition costs, such as realizing efficiencies, managing expenses and increasing financial aid,” Collins said. “We are interested in hearing Tufts Student Action’s thoughts and ideas on this topic of mutual concern, and look forward to an informative and productive dialogue.”
According to Breza, TSA will be holding a community teach-in about the HaltTheHike demands at noon on Nov. 16 in Eaton 202.