As I am sure most everyone knows by now, college is very expensive for many students. The cost of classes, meal plans, housing, textbooks and, yes, the occasional parking ticket are all expected. However, one thing that I did not sign up for when applying to the University of Indianapolis was the consistent tuition hikes. I may go to a private university, but that should not mean I get hit with bill increases which my scholarships barely cover.
According to the university’s web page titled “UIndy’s Costs for Full-Time Students,” the cost of undergraduate tuition alone is $34,416 for the 2023-24 school year. I have the Lugar Academic Scholarship (which can be renewed for eight undergraduate semesters) worth $17,000 a year split across two semesters, and while I’m grateful for the help, it hardly keeps me afloat during the semester. In fact, I find it almost insulting that my scholarship, along with other merit awards, have not been adjusted with the rise in tuition. While I understand the merit-based scholarships students are given upon admission don’t adjust, I do not understand why they should not be.
As reported in a Reflector article last year, the 2022-23 school year’s undergraduate tuition was $33,252, and saw a 3.5%, or $1,164, increase for the 2023-24 school year. Subsequently, I wish I would have seen a 3.5%, or a $595 increase in my scholarship. This would have been incredibly helpful with surviving during the current school year, and yet I did not receive it. I was merely expected to figure out a way to make another $1,164 in order to pay my bill.
Another gripe I have with the frequent increases in tuition is how they have occurred every single school year from 2014 to 2023. As seen in a graphic from a Reflector article published this past February, every academic year has seen an increase of at least $800 in tuition, with years 2018-23 seeing increases of at least $1,000. It is strange how UIndy continues to raise its tuition every year, but there are no announcements of reduced costs of meal plans or more opportunities to cut back fees for students. I genuinely feel as if I have not seen many real benefits from tuition increasing so much every year. Instead, I have only noticed the increased bills, and as a college student who has to work over 40 hours a week on top of managing a course load and extracurriculars, it scares me.
In February, the University of Indianapolis Director of Financial Aid Nathan Lohr encouraged students to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) by April 15 in order to help pay for the upcoming semester. While I believe this is very important in maximizing all financial aid, I was only “rewarded” from the Department of Education with an unsubsidized federal loan of $7,500, barely making a dent in my tuition and fees. It is unrealistic for the government to expect college students to get decent awards from FAFSA, as the average award is $9,000 (less than half in the form of grants), according to a report on FAFSA opportunities by Saving For College. The tuition raise has made me, and I am sure many other students, take out high-interest private loans in order to cover my expenses for this school year. While taking out loans is a common route for students, loans should not be our main option.
Some may argue that one should also have a job in college to pay for the expected high costs. Well, I do have a job—three actually—and yet it is not enough. I work at Panda Express ($16.15 an hour), have a social media internship ($10 an hour) and work for The Reflector ($407 biweekly), and yet it still is not enough to pay for my bills. Why is it that I work three jobs and have to take out private loans to pay for my college that says they are “committed to making your education as affordable as possible” (according to the university’s website)? Why do I have to fill up all my free time with work and still drown in the rising costs of attending UIndy? I agree with the value of working in college, but I cannot even enjoy the money I earn as it goes straight to my bills from school.
I love our campus culture and the valuable education I receive, but the weekly email from the UIndy Office of Student Billing and Payment immediately soils that. I feel like nothing I do will ever be enough to pay for college here. And, I feel like no amount of money I pay to the school will incite visible changes to the experience. So I call it upon myself and other students to ask, “How much more will we struggle until we ask for change?”