Student union members react to four percent tuition increase


Rachel Choi

Tuition hike.

By Bailey Allen, Former news editor

Emerson College is set to increase the undergraduate costs of attendance by four percent for the 2023-24 academic year, prompting negative reactions from the student union.

The increase will bring tuition up to $54,379 from $52,228 this year and single room and board up to $20,829 from $20,028 this year. Combined, full-time Emerson students in a single room will pay $75,208 (up from $72,316) per academic year—a difference of $2,892.

In the community-wide email sent April 13, signed by Interim President William Gilligan and Board of Trustees Chair Eric Alexander, the college wrote that the decision was influenced by “inflationary pressures,” an increase in the amount of financial aid awarded, increased labor costs, and previous “below-average” tuition increases during the pandemic.

“Although we would all prefer no changes to cost, the college believes this increase is necessary in order to provide a dynamic and robust learning experience in the face of these conditions,” the email said.

During the pandemic, Emerson increased tuition by two percent every year. However, the incoming four percent increase remains “below the current rate of inflation,” officials said.

The college cited several initiatives as other factors in the rise, such as an investment in salary increases for college employees, the expansion of the Social Justice Collaborative, and the Emersion: Foundations of Success program for first-year students.

College officials and members of the Board of Trustees will implement reforms to “enhance the engagement” of students and their families with the Financial Aid Office, the email said.

Students across campus reacted negatively to the increase.

Jess Adair, a junior creative writing major and the student union’s deputy chair of digital output, said she is worried about taking another loan out to cover the tuition increase.

“As someone who’s here on many scholarships and grants and loans and financial aid, it’s scary,” Adair said in an interview. “I have to burden myself now to go out and get another loan to accommodate this so I don’t have to pay any more than I already am—just to finish my education and not have to transfer somewhere.”

She recalled being in the Lion’s Den after the tuition increase email was sent out. Students were buzzing, many looking at their phones and laptops and anxiously murmuring about the announcement, she said.

“Everybody was talking about it,” she said. “And people had their calculators out, saying, ‘How much is four percent more?’ Because [the school is] very vague with it.”

In their initial email, the college did not specify what the four percent increase would come out to in dollars.

In response to the decision, the college’s student union is planning a rally for Friday at 1 p.m. in the 2 Boylston Place alleyway, demanding a say in deciding the cost of attendance.

“The school is not going to make a decision that costs it hundreds of thousands of dollars unless their hands are really forced, particularly with public perception,” said Dylan Young, a sophomore visual and media arts major and the union’s internal communications chairman. “We want to have continual pressure on the school, and hopefully, these rallies will lead to something that’s even more radical and would force the hand of the school more.”

Young said that raising tuition without raising financial aid is unfair and inequitable for students who might not have as much money on hand.

“You have these tuition rises across the nation and it’s this privatization of higher education that’s slowly squeezing the lower-income people out of these universities,” he said.

David Sazdic, a sophomore VMA major who works in communications at the student union, said the student body should not just sit back and take blow after blow.

“Emerson students aren’t going to back down from a fight, and we’re going to hold [the administration] accountable for this,” Sazdic said. “No matter how long it takes.”

Paul Dworkis, the college’s chief financial officer, did not respond to a request for comment. College spokesperson Michelle Gaseau referred the Beacon to the community-wide email and did not provide additional information.