Tuition transparency: Enrolling at a college before knowing the costs

Handling the exorbitant price of a college education is nothing short of a heavy burden. This is especially true in times like these, when families are struggling from job loss and the opportunities for work without higher education are minimal. This struggle is coupled with the fact that many average American families have had to dip into their life savings just to get by daily — forget paying $50,000 for tuition per year. In addition, many universities encourage incoming freshman to make enrollment commitments before releasing tuition information for the coming year. This is unacceptable.

It is in the best interest of students and their families to have concrete numbers in front of them when choosing a university. Sometimes a difference of a few thousand dollars between College A and College B could mean the world for a student. It could mean more money for books, room and board, or living expenses. It could mean more money saved for a student’s siblings or more money to travel between home and school. The exact tuition numbers are crucial for making informed decisions. After all, is it not in everyone’s best interests for students to come out of college with as little debt as possible?

Certainly, evidence that colleges are trying to trick prospective students doesn’t exist; schools have to wait for state budgets to be available before tuition can be set for the following year. But this is hardly an excuse, and perhaps the process of securing the budget for universities needs to be moved along at a faster rate. Encouraging higher education in this country is important, and not leading students and their families astray in the process is key. In order for families to properly plan, they need to know these numbers.

If it truly is not possible to receive state budgets before late spring, universities could extend the universal May 1 deadline, even just to the end of the month. This would stop putting pressure on students to commit as early as possible.  Universities also could move back early decision deadlines to accommodate the change in the customary May 1 deadline. This would give students more time to weigh their different options and put less pressure on them to decide as soon as possible. It may be in the best interest of the college to establish their classes as soon as possible, but it seems clear that this is not in the best interest of students. Especially within state universities, change in this area needs to happen. As it stands now, this process is unacceptable and harmful to students and their families.


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