Feb 23, 2011

The Student Poverty Song

We’re coming into tuition-setting season. Over the next several months, tuition rates for the 2011-2012 academic year will slowly roll out across the country.

And you can bet that few will go in the direction of Sewanee, which recently announced an unprecedented tuition decrease of 10 percent for next year.

Although tuition increases are expected to moderate somewhat and aid should continue to rise faster than price, the totals will continue to astonish as increasing numbers of colleges and universities quietly cross the $50,000 mark.

Among the Ivies, the University of Pennsylvania already announced a 3.9 percent increase in tuition, fees, and room and board bringing the total to $53,976. Cornell approved a $1,875 across-the-board tuition increase which comes to about 4.7 per for the university’s endowed colleges and 8 percent for New York state residents in Cornell’s statutory colleges.

Yale is up by 5.8 percent bringing total tuition, fees, and room and board to $52,700, while Brown is requesting a 3.5 percent increase to $53,136. On the bottom end of the scale, Princeton will increase tuition by only 1 percent for the 2011-12 academic year, keeping the total at slightly below $50,000.

In other parts of the country, the news is similar. Stanford will go up by 3.5 percent to $52,341. Washington University in St. Louis (3.9 percent), Notre Dame (3.8 percent), Brigham Young (3 percent), Ithaca (4.76 percent), and Villanova (3 percent) all recently announced tuition increases. Wake Forest’s tuition will go up by 3.9 percent and housing by 5.6 percent.

And locally, Georgetown University will be going up by 2.8 percent, for a total of $53,910, while the George Washington University Board of Trustees approved an increase for incoming students of 2.9 percent.

So it’s no surprise that The Student Poverty Song, a video produced by students of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, struck a chord with undergrads in the US. With average student debt close to $30,000—the highest of all Canadian provinces—Dalhousie students are making the case for maintaining a tuition freeze slated to expire at the end of the year.

And the refrain is familiar. “Can’t afford these happy times. I’m living off nickels and dimes. It’s hard to see what’s in front of me when I’m one step closer to poverty.”

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