Yes, but where does the money go?

Published On:
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Printer-friendly version

On Friday, ASU President Michael Crow sent students his second video about the financial crisis and its impacts on the University. Crow spoke of cuts in revenue coming from the state, the yearly 5 percent raise in tuition and other specifics which will come into play as the administration deals with the tightening money situation.

Prior to the video being sent out, Crow met with The State Press editorial board to talk about the same topic. The discussion lasted for more than an hour and covered some critical territory which the relatively brief video message left out. Together, these two sources provide good information on certain points and dodge the issue in other cases.

When it comes to explaining the financial issues that the University is struggling with, as well as the general purpose of the tuition raise, Crow is coherent, detailed and to the point. The state of Arizona is cutting funding — about $60.3 million at ASU that we know of so far — and augmented tuition rates are designed to counteract these losses somewhat.

In fact, revenue from tuition will only go up by an estimated $45 million after the raise (factoring in enrollment growth), so students should feel thankful that administration chose to stick to its “predictable tuition increase.”

Other points were not so clear. According to the video transcript, students expressed “concern related to what they called ‘accountability for tuition,’” as did The State Press editors. In other words, we want to know where the money is headed, not just where it came from.

In the video, Crow mentioned that there have been “massive investments … to improve the student experience, but they may not always be visible.” When pressed by the paper’s editors, Crow said that “there are ways to learn other than [by] sitting in the classroom,” and that one area where funds are being channeled is technological investment.

Specifically, this means more equipment for online and hybrid learning, which, according to President Crow, is a good thing since “you can get out of here in three years instead of five years because you can learn faster.” Anyone who has taken online classes knows that they make coursework easier and quicker to complete. Whether or not this corresponds to learning is another issue.

Keeping this in mind, a larger picture comes into view. Considering the budgetary limitations that the financial crisis is imposing on ASU, tuition will remain relatively modest and affordable. Likewise, access to financial aid will stay high.

But at the same time, the slimmed-down University budget is being spent on a means of instruction that does not provide benefits to students that reflect the rise in cost. If more money is to be spent on learning and instruction, then obtaining a real education should become more possible. Instead, it is simply becoming easier to get a degree, which is not the same thing.

The financial collapse indicates that Americans — and indeed the entire world — need universities to provide students with robust educations so that this generation’s citizenry will improve upon the mistakes of those who came before.

The current policy of directing funding towards online instruction does not meet this need, and the ASU student body needs to remain insistent that quality of learning does not decrease at the rate of tuition hikes.

Kevin can be reached by e-mail at krking@asu.edu.