‘I can’t comprehend how much money I’m paying’: Students react to tuition raise for academic year

Illustration+by+Rachel+Choi

Photo: Rachel Choi

Illustration by Rachel Choi

By Olivia LeDuc

When Emerson announced it was raising tuition for the 2022-23 academic year, sophomore visual media arts major Elle Mako wondered how she would pay for it. Between the increase and the yen depreciation in her home country, Japan, her bill rose by approximately $12,000.

Emerson announced a rise in tuition and room and board costs by 2% for the 2022-23 academic year in a campus-wide email sent in March. Interim President William Gilligan and Chairman of the Board Eric Alexander attributed the increase to “challenges imposed by the pandemic.”

The announcement wasn’t the first of its kind—Emerson raised the cost of attendance by 2% in the 2021-22 year, by 2% in the 2020-21 year, and by varying percentages, every year preceding that since 2012.

While Emerson offers financial assistance opportunities, like the Tuition Increase Offset Fund and need and merit-based scholarships, Mako is faced with a harsh reality—college is too expensive.

“I’m going to start [working] a part-time job, and I’m planning to leave school earlier because I can’t afford it,” she said.

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With the fall semester in full swing, Mako and other students are starting to feel the effects of the tuition increase.

“I feel like the tuition raise is quite steep considering the cost of tuition at Emerson already,” said Fiona McMahon, a sophomore VMA major.

Tuition for the 2022-23 academic year costs $52,288, according to an Emerson College webpage. Because of Emerson’s price tag, McMahon faces costly debt, particularly as tuition increases.

“I’ve had to do a lot of financial planning and consider the possibility of debt in the future from student loans,” McMahon said. “It’s definitely not an exciting thought, but it’s my reality.” 

McMahon’s situation isn’t isolated, with multiple students allocating extra funds to compensate for the increase. Quinn Exceen, a senior VMA major, said they were “very upset” to hear of the tuition raise and how it has created anxiety among students who are responsible for paying their own tuition.

I see this dramatically affecting students,” Exceen said. “I know people who are paying for college on their own, and I feel for them when I know they’re the ones who are going to have to cover the bill.”

Mirabella Cue, a junior media studies major, said she is also aware of the already unaffordable tuition rates and its impact on students. 

“It’s so expensive…I can’t comprehend how much money I’m paying to be here,” she said.

Cue also highlighted that many funds from the tuition increase might be quickly spent by the college due to rising inflation. The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates four times, compounding to 2.25%, since the beginning of 2022.

“The price of living is incredibly high, and for students who are financially independent, it’s something that requires constant thought and planning,” McMahon said.

The tuition increase initially spurred student protests and calls for student participation in the college’s financial decisions. In April, students gathered to protest the increase in the 2 Boylston Place alleyway. The organizing group, Power to the Students, made five demands confronting the college’s financial decision with an April 13 deadline for administration to respond.

The petition garnered over 100 signatures, and Emerson’s administration expressed interest in taking the demands into consideration, but Power to the Students reportedly did not hear anything further from the college.

Now, two weeks into the 2022-23 academic year, students remain unsure of where their money is going, as the college has provided little financial transparency to date.

Students like Exceen hope Emerson will spend the additional money on upgrading campus spaces, like dorms, classrooms, and campus.

Cue hopes the college will lower the cost of tuition in the future.

“I honestly feel like the college has so many buildings and programs that it would be great if they could put that money into trying to overall lower tuition costs,” she said.

For McMahon and many others, the college should provide financial transparency moving forward.

I hope myself and other students at Emerson become well informed about where their money is going and how they can make the most out of their experience,” she said.