Students want to know where, exactly, tuition is going

Vector concept of investment in education

Brooke Fox is a University of Colorado student and a fall 2015 USA TODAY College correspondent.

Want to know exactly where your tuition dollars are going? As more and more studentsdoubt the value of their college education due to rapidly increasing costs and overwhelming student debts, some are asking for full accounting of their schools’ use of tuition revenues.

Students from American UniversityBoston University and more have pushed for tuition transparency — without many results — over the last several years. And now, the Leeds Council Student Government, the student government group at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, is joining them.

The council, which recently voted unanimously to form a tuition transparency task force, says they feel they have a right to know the breakdown of the cost to receive a college education.

Asher Bond Vandevort, a senior at the Leeds School of Business and Leeds Council representative, is leading the effort.

“As an out-of-state student I’m paying roughly $17,700 outside of student fees per semester, and I have no idea what those are going to,” says Vandevort. “I’m putting myself through school, taking out student loans — I was curious to see how that was justified.”

His work started last March, when he reached out to the university budget office. Vandevort says he was told that he should instead reach out to his specific school within the university.

After speaking with administrators at Leeds and not getting any satisfactory responses, Vandevort says he decided to bring the issue to the Leeds Council to add legitimacy to his efforts.

This week, however, Vandevort says he spoke with Brian Lewandowski, the interim assistant dean of operations at the Leeds School of Business. Lewandowski, he said, “talked about shifting revenue streams for the university as it relates to rising tuition and is putting together a report for me that will include a pie chart of major expenditure areas for Leeds.”

“A pie chart is a start, but (it’s too general). I ultimately want people to be able to see how the breakdown might differ between instate/out of state/international/graduate.”

At the University of Colorado, the tuition of a business student is the highest on campus, whetherin-state or out-of-state.

Student fees, which are paid in addition to tuition and amount to about $889.39 each semester for full-time students at the University of Colorado, are available online. Which means a breakdown of costs can be seen for things such as how much goes to use of the career services, for example.

“I derive so much value from what student fees are allocated towards,” Vandevort says, “and that’s such a small portion of what I pay in tuition. I really want to know, I guess, the fundamentals of how much does it cost to keep teachers well paid or how much it costs to keep on the lights and things like that.”

Students at American University, among those at other schools, in coordination with AU’s student government, requested more transparency from the Board of Trustees and the University Budget Committee in 2014. Boston University students gathered signatures on a letter in 2012 asking state legislators to support a bill in the Massachusetts State Senate that would increase tuition transparency. The bill, which also received support from Harvard University students, was killed in 2012.

Some schools, however, are taking a proactive approach on tuition transparency, such as Point Park University in Pittsburgh. When Point Park made an announcement to raise tuition by 3.9% for the 2015-16 school year, the school’s president explained  where the money was going, including financial aid, core curriculum, staffing for new courses, a program to help freshmen graduate on time, campus WiFi, campus safety and career services upgrades.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, public universities increased tuition by 7.7% on average from 2012-13 to 2013-14. The department’s ipeds website gives students a general breakdown of each school’s spending, but many say it’s difficult to use and doesn’t specify what’s being funded by tuition as opposed to categories like gifts and grants.

In 2010, the Los Angeles Times attempted to uncover where universities’ estimated $40 billion in revenue over 1980 was going. It concluded that student tuition is now covering the increasing cost of college sports, from more sports teams to teams with more athletes, and that they are also covering higher faculty salaries and an increasingly large administration, which the Times says doubled since 1980.

Another potential reason for the rise: university presidents’ salaries, which doubled from 1995 to 2010, even after adjusting for inflation according to USA TODAY.

Schools could run into problems when not disclosing the financial decisions; Earlier this year, reported The Wall Street Journal, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation into the financial decisions of Cooper Union, which eventually led to its president’s resignation.

Vandevort says that tuition transparency hopefully “translates into people deriving more value from their education and seeing it as a worthwhile endeavor.”

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by USA Today and was retrieved on 10/18/2015 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and expressions made in the article are those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.