Op-Ed: Students demand that Tufts #HaltTheHike

Dear Students and Families of Tufts University,

On April 16, Tufts sent an email to students and families announcing a 3.8% increase in tuition for next year, meaning tuition and associated expenses, including books and personal expenses, will total  $73,818. Year after year, we have seen this cost increase, and if these trends continue, first-years will pay $81,374 for attendance their senior year. We know that the university has no plan to stop these increases in the foreseeable future, and we cannot afford to stand by as the price unjustifiably rises in this way. Students demand that the Board of Trustees and administration halt the hike.

The deans sent an email bragging about their record-breaking budget for financial aid, but students on financial aid know that their financial need has never been fully met, and that as tuition costs increase, so do their loan packages. With such high tuition, some financial aid goes to low-income students, but the majority of the 35% of Tufts students who are on financial aid come from middle- and upper-middle class families able to pay a large portion of the cost. Low-income students experience social stratification and social isolation as a result of being from families who require significant aid to attend Tufts. Even when the students are admitted, many of these families cannot afford to pay the expected family contribution that Tufts assigns to them without going into unimaginable debt.

Students have to take two or three jobs, on top of schoolwork, and sign loans they know will complicate decisions about their futures in order to stay enrolled as tuition increases year to year. Since before 2015, student activists have raised concerns with the administration about the rising cost of tuition and the lack of transparency around the budgeting process that goes into deciding the increase. The administration has responded with deflective and misleading language that they share during “budget town hall” meetings. These events serve to normalize their annual pricetag increase while student stories of the effects of such increases remain unheard.

Fundraising campaigns continue to prioritize financing of capital projects, but financial aid for low-income students is sidelined despite the fact that these students pay into the university’s endowment.

According to Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC), in on-campus labor disputes, Tufts often cites the university’s financial strain as their reason for not paying workers fairly. When students and workers have organized together for higher wages and better healthcare in the past, the administration has claimed that they can’t accommodate lower tuition and higher pay for workers simultaneously. TLC completely rejects this sentiment — we will not let Tufts pit students and workers against each other. The university needs to align its financial priorities with its advertised values: the well-being of members of the Tufts community. TLC demands that Tufts #HaltTheHike, because at an institution with a $1.89 billion endowment, no community member should feel financially burdened.

The tides of higher education are turning, with students across the nation calling attention to the student-debt crisis. As people in power are beginning to see the need for free public education for all, we demand Tufts halt this trend of excluding low-income students from private universities. We demand that the Board of Trustees and administration reverse the 2019–2020 tuition increase now, and we invite all students, alumni, faculty, staff and Tufts families to sign our petition to the administration to stop this unjust pricing scheme.

Signed,

Tufts Student Action

Tufts Labor Coalition

Tufts Housing League

Tufts Asian Student Coalition

Association of Latin American Students

If your organization is interested in signing onto the petition, please email karen.ruiz_moreno@tufts.edu.


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