Last week, students and their families received an announcement that USF’s Board of Trustees approved a tuition increase by 4.4% for the next academic year. To justify the increase, President Paul J. Fitzgerald explained that financial aid would also be significantly increased, and to console us, wrote that “USF continually seeks ways to work efficiently and ensure that resources are directed toward fulfilling our mission and supporting our values.”
This vague explanation is not enough. The Foghorn strongly encourages USF’s financial decisionmakers to be more transparent with budgetary changes and, in this case, explain exactly why our tuition is increasing.
We understand that there are legitimate reasons to raise tuition, and in fact, we believe that USF has good reasons to do so. Funding financial aid is important and, unlike other schools, USF does not have a big donor base that they can rely on. Our issue is not with the tuition increase itself as much as it is with the lack of information provided at the outset. None of these reasons were listed in the tuition announcement and, since most students understandably don’t know the minutiae of USF’s budgeting activities, the increase feels like an attempt to squeeze out more money out of students who are already paying significant amounts to attend the school.
Saying that USF’s resources are “directed toward fulfilling our mission and supporting our values” seems quite well-intentioned, but it could also come across as a hollow excuse. That’s the problem: there is very little substance to the statement. The Foghorn staff does not think that this tuition increase is a part of some large conspiracy, but as students who pay tuition, we deserve to know why we need to pay more.
We are not the only ones who think that USF needs to provide more information about its finances to students. In fact, the recent reaccreditation report by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges recommended more transparency. In response to that report, the administration announced that it would be creating a Budget Oversight Committee. But as John Iosefo writes in this week’s opinion pages, that committee is missing a crucial voice: the students.
There’s already a disconnect between the board of trustees and the students. They are worldly professionals compared to us young students, and that’s all the more reason to forge a connection through open communication. These Trustees do care about the University, and the best way to express this care is to be open and honest about how they are maintaining the finances of the University.
There may be good reasons to raise tuition, but there are no good reasons to not tell the students why. We pay to go here and we deserve to know where our money is going, and why this school needs more of it.