Welcome to your yearly opinion piece about the tuition increase. Yet again, we (students, faculty, staff — basically everyone outside in administration) are at the beginning of a long, strenuous process that gets us nowhere.
I can tell you right now how this is likely to play out. USF announced its potential tuition raise already. Obviously, everyone and their mothers are justifiably upset. The tuition increase is greater than at some comparable institutions, like Santa Clara University and the University of San Diego, and the accompanying financial aid increase, yet again, only benefits new students. That means continuing students are, to use a colloquial phrase, SOL when it comes to paying for college. As so offered by our caring administration at the ASUSF town hall meeting last week, we can always take out more predatory loans, right? What’s another $13,000 that we’ll never be able to pay back? Undocumented students who don’t have access to federal aid don’t matter, right? What else is being an “Undocu-ally” if not making sure they can’t get their degrees!
So, we’re upset. The town hall was called, we had a rare opportunity to call out administration for blatantly not caring about the populations it targets during recruitment (Black folks, poor folks, and first-generation college students chief among them), and it gets retweeted. Soon, someone with wide eyes who hasn’t yet been beaten down by cruel, cruel reality will make a petition “demanding” that the likes of President Paul Fitzgerald and Provost Donald Heller change their minds. We’ll all be upset until the school inevitably announces that despite all of the feedback to the contrary, the Board of Trustees voted in favor of raising tuition.
Then, we’ll get even angrier. Maybe we’ll feel betrayed by the institution that sought us out, promising safety and tolerance before bleeding us dry just to finish an education we probably feel entitled to. Undoubtedly, there will be unrest. More opinion pieces like this one will be written, more petitions will pass through our inboxes, more angry conversations will be had in our classrooms.
And then? Well, then we’ll have finals and move on into our summer. We’ll take out all those extra loans because all the science says we aren’t going to live long enough to have to pay them off anyways. Maybe some of us will transfer, and a lot of us will probably lose one of our only opportunities to get an education.
And here’s the kicker: USF doesn’t care.
Universities are, first and foremost, businesses. They are here to make money off of the people who attend. Perhaps this makes USF more insidious; peddling an environment of diversity and equity means intentionally seeking out the poorest and most marginalized and then demanding them to sell their souls to loan agencies to continue what they’ve started. We are numbers to them before we are students before we are people. If we can’t pay what they tell us to pay, they’ll just find someone who can. Imagining even for a second that anyone in charge of the money at this university, or really any university, actually cares about its students is simply naive. Not to be overtly dystopian, but this is just the world we live in.
USF will continue to raise tuition and screw over the students it so desperately tries to recruit because doing so is such a fantastic business model. Individually, Heller, Fitzgerald, and Vice Provosts Jeff Hamrick and Michael Beseda likely make more money in one year than most of us will earn in our lifetimes. This business model benefits them at the cost of us. Our suffering is simply a microcosm of the late capitalist system in which we live, and it’s about time we connected the dots.
So then, with all of this in mind, what do we do? Do we simply wallow in our own misery, shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars that aren’t our own in order to be “granted the privilege” of getting a bachelor’s degree, while Heller waxes moronic about how education isn’t a public good, but police are?
Do we fight back? What fight could there be between a voice that can’t be heard and an ear that refuses to hear? Patiently asking oh-so-”Oliver Twist”-like, “Please, sirs, may we have some more education?” obviously isn’t going to get anywhere. Unless we all perform a grand exodus, meekly taking our three-fourths finished degrees window shopping for other universities, the administration won’t see any monetary benefit to lowering tuition and benefiting the people it claims to serve. Unfortunately, we’re trapped.
We’re trapped in a school that doesn’t serve us, with many of us in a society that doesn’t value us, in a world that is breathing its last, struggling breaths. Desperately, we cling to the idea that maybe the people in power will have hearts that grow three sizes at the sound of our pleading and whimpering, but, of course, that isn’t going to happen.
For the love of God, someone come up with some ideas.