Tuition costs slowly rise, students struggle

What happens when the entire nation is feeling their wallets tighten? Higher education decides to become more expensive, of course. Since the economy’s downturn in 2008, college has become less and less about education and is quickly becoming synonymous with money. And yet, tuition keeps rising and students are struggling to keep up.
“This summer I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to pay for school,” junior Brittany Puebla said.
Puebla is currently enrolled in classes at both UM and Florida International University while she tries to resolve her tuition dilemma.
“My parents own a small business and with the economy they’ve been taking a hit,” she said. “I was contemplating whether I should continue at UM and it’s still been very difficult for my parents to come up with the money.”
As of July 2011, the unemployment rate was at 9.1 percent, almost double what it was in 2007. UM’s cost of attendance, however, has gone up 26 percent, from $44,122 to $55,454.
Despite these staggering statistics, more students are applying to UM than ever before. Roughly 27,800 students applied for the 2,000 spaces in the class of 2015.
“We try to work very closely with students and families to try and make this happen,” said Edward Gillis, assistant vice president for the Division of Enrollment Management. “Wherever a student goes, whether UM or otherwise, it’s going to be a sizable investment.”
Gillis believes that students are now “more savvy” and are asking questions about how realistically affordable school will be. UM makes sure to give advice to all interested students.
“The messages that we send people are more about financial aid and scholarships. In other words, get all of the financial information you need before deciding whether it is affordable,” Gillis said.
Even with UM’s dedication to helping students as best they can, there is little anyone can do about government funding cuts. The Florida Bright Futures program, for instance, has seen dramatic cuts this school year. The Florida Academic Scholarship (which at one point was the equivalent of 100 percent of tuition at public universities) was cut from $125 per credit hour in the 2010-2011 school year to $101 this year. This means that all recipients of this award must now pay more than $700 in comparison to last year.
The federal government has also become increasingly tight in giving loans. While work study is still being given as a means to supplement financial aid, many students are struggling to find time.
“My schedule is already so packed that it’s going to be hard for me to make the full $3,000,” said sophomore Melanie Dewey, a student at the Frost School of Music.
At the end of the day, no matter how many statistics and promises are thrown around, the harsh reality is that some people just cannot afford to pay for school.
“I don’t want to [leave],” Puebla said. “It’s my school. I bleed orange and green, I really do. But I can’t put my parents through the struggle.”