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Rising Tuition Rates, Recession Having Impact on Students, Schools

Many of the nation’s colleges and universities are raising tuition for students this school year, and the economic recession is having an effect on several Minority-Serving Institutions.

California State University, which has a large minority population, raised tuition and fees 20 percent for students this fall. 

Joaquin Beltran, 25, a senior studying political science at California State University’s Los Angeles campus and president of Associated Students Inc., says there are several students who are being affected by the tuition hike.

“I’m one of those students,” Beltran says. “It’s those students who are working and living paycheck to paycheck. I can’t afford this increase.”

Overall, Beltran says the tuition rose 32 percent this year, including a 20-percent hike in July.

“We’re making it harder for students to maintain higher learning,” he says. “We’re hurting individuals, our state and our country.” 

Becky Timmons, the assistant vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington, D.C., says this year has been a hard year for all colleges and universities. 

Timmons says higher education is considered a lesser priority. She says 32 states have had major cuts in higher education. ACE is collecting reports on what that means for tuition hikes because of budget cuts, staff layoffs and travel freezes.

She says many institutions should try to create opportunities and rethink their mission because these are not usual times, especially colleges that enroll a large minority population.

“Many of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities have always operated with scarcity,” Timmons said, “and not much in the way of donor and external support. Very few of [those HBCUs] are blessed with large endowments.”

“Ironically, they’re experienced,” she says, “but the fact that they are focused on serving a low-income student body will help them navigate these tricky waters.”

Timmons says with rising tuition, she does not anticipate colleges and universities giving out more financial aid. 

However, Beltran says those students who receive financial aid awards should not worry, adding that it is those students who are not eligible to receive financial aid awards who are going to be hit the hardest.

Jennifer Jiles, the interim senior director of marketing and communications for Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, says the university laid off faculty and consolidated classes in February when students did not return for the spring semester because of cost.

She says some students did not receive financial aid and student loans; as a result, they did not return to school. 

Although Clark Atlanta’s tuition rate has remained stable, Jiles says the institution has seen a 28-percent decrease in its endowment because of the economic recession.

“People are giving less,” Jiles says. “They have to cut back.” 

In the future, Jiles says the university hopes to look for ways to build relationships in the business community, try to increase and stabilize the enrollment, and recruit more students.  

The impact of “the economic climate is not unique to HBCUs,” she says. 

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