Tuition increases may make the University unattendable for some

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Another year, another tuition hike. But this one may have less bite than usual.

Earlier this month, the University’s Board of Trustees proposed a 1.7 percent tuition increase for the incoming Class of 2018, matching the increase from last year. Alongside the possible tuition hike are proposals for a 2.3 percent increase in student fees and 2 percent increase in housing fees, which would apply to all students on the Urbana campus. 

This would match the tuition increase for the 2013-14 academic year, which was also 1.7 percent. While this diminutive increase may seem to be a positive story, the long-term picture is much less rosy. 

The cost of tuition continually increases each year, and for many students, a college education has become unaffordable. Understandably, the University does have to account for gut-wrenching cost factors, such as inflation and a lack of money coming in from the state. 

However, as rising costs put a University of Illinois degree increasingly out of reach for some students — such as those in low-income and underrepresented populations — the question of whether a University of Illinois education is worth the money still looms. 

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There is no question that the University’s prowess in fields such as computer science and engineering, along with high placement rates and starting salaries in these fields, make it hard to argue with paying for these programs. The reputation of the institution, in this case, is just as important as the degree itself. 

However, a whole bunch of other degrees offered by the University are considerably less economical. But there are still other options available to cost-conscious prospective students.

Arguably, many prospective students may seek altemative, cheaper educational resources, like community colleges, to gain the skills and expertise necessary to succeed in their desired field. Furthermore, students bent on graduating with a University of Illinois degree can often knock out most of their general education requirements and lower-level courses at a considerably lower cost via community colleges. 

Outside of the classroom, students can attain immeasurable experience through internship positions, which often require the pursuit of a college degree but often not a specific college.

Although the rate at which the tuition is increasing will remain around the same as last year, tuition is increasing nonetheless. This will allow those from wealthy socioeconomic backgrounds to continue attending the University, but will make it even harder for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to obtain a college education from this school. 

Even if they do find the resources to attend this University, it is likely they will leave college carrying a large amount of debt.

While the tuition increases remain small, at least for now, we wonder how many more of them it will take before a University of Illinois degree just isn’t worth it anymore. In other words, is $50,000 in in-state tuition over four year worth the skills and knowledge we acquire throughout our undergraduate careers, or can similar skills and knowledge be acquired elsewhere for cheaper?

Sure, tuition is rising, and, according to the University — considering that state funding has decreased about 23 percent since 2002 — it needs to if the University wants to continue operating as a renowned public land-grant institution. And it will continue to rise in the future as cost-of-living indices also continue to increase.

At first glance, this historically low increase in tuition may be something to shrug off — especially for current students who have their tuitions already locked in. But looking at the broader picture, these increases will accumulate, and it will be left up to students to decide if the cost of today’s degree is really worth the acquired skill set.