Raising MU’s tuition further highlights privilege within admissions process

The 5% tuition increase underlines existing problems within the MU admissions process, burdening current students and discouraging future students from applying.

For many students, money is the deciding factor in choosing what college to attend. For some, going to school out-of-state is not an option. Others face the harsh reality of choosing between their dream school or not going into debt.

As non-Missouri residents, we pay around $20,000 more than MU students who live in-state. However, the recent tuition increase has only exacerbated pre-existing issues regarding tuition. On May 19, 2021, MU’s Board of Curators voted 8-1 to approve a 5% tuition increase for undergraduate students. For a university that has inclusivity as a major component of its values, MU’s recent decision further hinders underprivileged students and presents new obstacles for those hoping to receive a college education.

The tuition increase is $459 total for the academic year. Although this may not seem like a large increase, with around 22,000 undergraduate students attending MU, a 5% tuition increase for all of them would equate to over $10 million in revenue for the university.

One pre-existing condition regards the money spent on dining and housing at MU. The sheer amount of money allocated toward dining and housing highlights an unfair reality that students have faced for years. The total estimated direct costs for attending MU as a non-Missouri resident is around $41,000 for the academic year. Around $17,000 of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is based upon nonresident fees. For both in-state and out-of-state tuition, only $13,264 goes to tuition. More than half the cost of attending the university is housing and meals.

However, out of the 31,103 MU students who attend the university, only around 6,700 live in residential halls. The COVID-19 pandemic proved living on campus isn’t necessary, especially when many students attended classes online. Circumstances even provided international students the opportunity to attend school from home. Students who don’t live on campus or use dining plans should not be expected to pay for utilities they don’t use. This should not make up more than half the cost of attending college.

Existing scholarships also hinder underprivileged students when it comes to affording MU tuition. The Mizzou Heritage Scholarship awards out-of-state students with in-state tuition based upon their familial ties to alumni.

This inhibits people of color from applying to this scholarship because MU did not admit Black students into the university until 1950. Since their parents’ generation would be the first to possibly attend MU, Black students then and now do not have the same opportunities as white students. Currently, 78.3% of the student body is white, guaranteeing that this scholarship is most likely available to white students or students whose families had the economic opportunity to attend college in the past.

MU Chancellor Mun Choi said the reason for the increase in tuition is to accelerate faculty hires. However, this comes after students learned last month that MU decided to cut funding from the Social Justice Centers, and lay off the leaders of their different facets in order to restructure the centers.

Hiring faculty members while also firing essential staff at the Social Justice Centers leads us to question the intentions of university leaders. These staff members have established safe and meaningful relationships with marginalized students. To strip that resource, while building more barriers to attend MU, shows that students' needs are not prioritized. Raising tuition not only adds another burden to current students, but discourages prospective students from applying to MU.

The proposal for the raise also came from problematic concepts of academic excellence. Ryan Rapp, the system vice president of finance and chief financial officer, proposed the idea for the tuition raise, hoping this would attract more “high-quality” students.

"As we move forward, this proposal is really a first step in improving our competitiveness," Rapp said.

Rapp’s idea implies raising tuition correlates with the increase of academic excellence. Instead, it perpetuates the false idea that students with higher economic status are more inclined to succeed academically, and those with lower economic status are less capable.

Rapp promotes the idea that a “high-quality” student is one that is wealthy enough to afford an education, inherently undermining the capabilities of economically underprivileged students. When competitiveness and wealth become more important than providing education for all, university leaders must reevaluate their values. MU is a public university that should be accessible to any student, no matter their economic status. Students without the privilege of a college savings fund should not be denied equal access to educational opportunities.

Furthermore, students who apply to MU may not know exactly how much they will have to pay to attend the university. MU has raised its tuition in 2019 by 5% and again in 2020 by 2.3%. This continuation in the increase of tuition makes attending MU more inaccessible for students as time goes on. It is unethical and unsustainable for MU to continue to raise tuition every year for undergraduate students.

With the increase of tuition, MU once again shows that money, reputation and status quo mean more than the students they claim they prioritize. It is up to MU to listen to their students’ needs and make decisions that will not burden current and future students.

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