posted 2011-11-30 14:41:07

The Value of (and in) Hunter College

Attacks on tuition hikes are misguided

SALIM WESTVIND

Opinion Editor

I am proud to go to Hunter College. Even though sometimes I feel like I’m one of the only students here that feels that way, I am. I’m proud to be getting what I feel is an excellent undergraduate education, equal in quality to that available at NYU—but at one-tenth of the tuition. Certainly, all that tuition money spent at NYU shows up in places like their shining all-you-can eat cafeterias, their well-paid, distinguished professors and their multi- million-dollar, rock-star-architect–designed buildings. But Hunter, too, provides remarkable opportunities for study and for scholarly interaction with one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation.

Certainly, and perhaps more so than at some other schools, what one puts into their education here correlates with what one gets out of it. With hard work, a great education at Hunter College is within reach. But Hunter is certainly not perfect. Our bureaucracy is notoriously slow and convoluted. By all appearances the college is failing to provide adjunct professors with a fair wage and benefit scheme. Undergraduate advising services are pitifully ineffective. And for the amount of money they appear to have spent on renovating the cafeteria, a greater move away from deep-fried, processed foods would have been appreciated. But while all these things are worth protesting, incremental tuition hikes are not. I, like many Hunter students, will graduate without a dime owed in student loans. I know that I’m fortunate in this way, and that many others struggle to meet the price of tuition here. But I remember when I first applied to colleges nearly half a decade ago and realized that attending nearly any other university would mean over one hundred thousand dollars in debt over four years.

I know the issue of tuition hikes is complicated, and that the CUNY system was originally founded as a free university. But hamburgers also used to cost a quarter—a dollar simply doesn’t buy what it used to. Time was when our tax dollars were sufficient funding, but that’s just not the case anymore. I recognize that universal higher education is a goal worth striving for as a nation, but the way to get there, at least at Hunter, is not by eliminating tuition. Rather, small, incremental tuition hikes announced well ahead of time will increase revenue and allow the college to give more money in aid and grants to those students that need it most. And for those of us that can still afford it—you’re still getting one of the best educations you can buy for the money.

Some may say it’s naïve to think that the college will spend the money from tuition increases on helping less well-off students, and of course it won’t all go there. Looking at the college’s current treatment of adjunct professors, there are valid points to be made about concerns in the direction our college is headed; at times it feels as though the administration should do more for the greater good. But, as students, we should organize our efforts towards ensuring that the increase in the tuition money we pay goes to the right places, like paying adjuncts fair wages and increasing student aid, instead of trying to stanch its flow altogether.

Gripped by a lingering economic crisis and the powerful anti-spending sentiment embodied in the Tea Party, Washington has been quick to cut aid to CUNY and SUNY schools. Recognizing that, I am willing to pay a little more in tuition. I voluntarily pay Hunter’s tuition to attend because I feel that the education I am receiving in return is worth far more. I’ve had courses with remarkable professors, participated in prestigious groups and conferences, and learned an awful lot. Most importantly, I will graduate with a sense that it was worth it—both in terms of time and money spent.

Students should protest for a better allocation of funds within Hunter, for more say in the determination process and for other things that will improve our quality of education. The administration and professors should behave in kind and strive for the same things. But no one should be against small, necessary and incremental increases in tuition.