SGA recommends low tuition

“It sucks that it all has to revolve around money.”

Maureen Murphy, vice president of administration and finance, said she is not anticipating this year’s increase to be higher than the 4.7 percent it was last year. However, the final amount will be determined later this month at the Board of Trustees meeting.

After extensive debate, the Student Government Association passed a recommendation letter to be sent to the Board of Trustees stating the tuition increase for the 2011-2012 academic year should be 3.7 percent or lower. Before voting, Cami Bravo, SGA president, presented a draft of the letter she had written and opened the meeting up for discussion on the topic.

“The administration has been trying to improve the college in so many different ways such as working through business services and improving the foreign language program by adding more professors,” Bravo said to the SGA. “If you want to have these changes, I think a 2.3 percent might hinder us, but at the same time I don’t want to see an eight percent increase.”

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Throughout the discussion, the SGA was split on what tuition increase percentage to suggest in their letter. Through his own research, Ethan Silverstein recommended the SGA suggest nothing more than a 2.3 percent increase, a number he found to be the 2010 inflation rate, according to usinflationcalculator.com.

Some thought this number was too low, while others wanted to present as low a percentage as possible.

However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, the inflation increase for 2010 was actually 1.6 percent. Nejem Raheem, assistant professor of economics, said that is relatively low as an index, and is proof the country is in somewhat of a deflation cycle right now.

“As an economist, if you ask me about the inflation rate, that’s something dealt with by the government; therefore, the site you want to look at is a government website,” Raheem said.

When determining the increase for the next academic year, Murphy said both internal and external operations are considered. These include program changes in academic departments, operating budget increases, additions to financial aid, and the economic environment. She said the largest amount of money goes to faculty and staff salary and benefits.

“We definitely look at the inflation rate, but it doesn’t only increase by inflation. We have other operations to support,” Murphy said.

Tau Zaman, SGA vice president, said he wanted to have more information on the topic, specifically a breakdown describing where the additional money would go. However, because Bravo is meeting with the Board of Trustees in two weeks, they had to make a collective recommendation about the increase on Tuesday.

“Right now, all the homework that we have is a statistic from the department of labor and no information from the college itself, no information as to where that money’s going, no information about the tuition increase,” Zaman said. “Our next step should be to get that information.”

According to information from Murphy, over the past ten years, the lowest increase has been 3.7 percent between 2009 and 2010, and the highest has been 6.8 percent between 2006 and 2007. The SGA made their recommendation based on a combination of the past tuition increases and what they thought was the 2010 U.S. inflation rate: 2.3 percent.

Bravo suggested the recommended amount be 3.7 percent. Corey Starbuck, SGA treasurer, agreed with Bravo, stating that lowering the tuition increase can also potentially lower the amount of financial aid offered to students.

“Emerson has been able to survive the economic crisis, and I think that’s something we should be proud of as a school,” Starbuck said.

Sticking by the low increase he recommended, Silverstein responded to Starbuck with the financial situation of students in mind.

“To say we survived a financial collapse, that we built two new buildings, it’s like ‘ya good job, we survived,’ but what about everyone who couldn’t come back?” he said.

The final version of the letter includes a request to speak with the vice president of finance for more information about where tuition dollars are spent.

All members except Silverstein voted to approve the final draft, stating they are aware the 2010 inflation rate was 2.3 percent and based on that information they recommend the tuition increase not exceed 3.7 percent.