Opinion

Tuition increase is a social justice issue

Take note: When the token conservative is saying that something is a social justice issue, you know you got it bad. Father Garanzini, Board of Trustees and everyone else with the power over tuition: You have a social justice issue on your hands now.

It has always been my philosophy, and still is my philosophy, that with hard work and opportunity anyone can achieve anything. It’s a good formula — work and opportunity means success. But when either of the two ingredients is tampered with, problems will arise. Such is the case with the university once again raising its cost of attendance by almost 3 percent. Work is still there — go apply to Starbucks or Giordano’s if you want to pay your way through school — but the opportunity side of the equation is beginning to shrink.

The Loyola PHOENIX
The Loyola PHOENIX

Yes, this is a social justice issue. I am loath to deploy the term “social justice” because I view it as more of a buzzword than anything in the campus lexicon. Yet, despite my aversion to it, this is one of few issues in which I can agree with those who champion social justice and say that, indeed, perpetual rises in the cost of education at Loyola are a social justice issue.

Ten or 20 years ago this may not have been the case. Tuition was cheaper then, but so was everything else. I won’t sugarcoat things and say that college was easy to afford, but by any metric it was indeed cheaper and opportunities for those in poor financial straits were easier to find. But when tuition already costs $25,000 or more any increase is going to hurt. Of course I know the conservative response to the annual raises in tuition: It is adjusted for inflation, it matches the Consumer Price Index, and the school can’t not raise tuition if it expects to survive as an institution. Those points are all true but so is this: $500 more in tuition is $500 that someone may not have.

When principles conservative or religious in nature meet reality, we cannot respond mechanically; we must respond humanly in a way that compromises neither our principles nor those for whom the principles are designed to help. We must respond effectively with some give and take coming from both sides of the proverbial aisle.

I am aware that Loyola must run as a business and a Catholic institution faithful to its values. Of course, as a conservative Catholic I support the business side of the university as well as its adherence to its values. For this reason I support capital planning projects (construction) and, dare I say it, university-initiated neighborhood gentrification projects. But, being the Jesuit Catholic institution we are, I can only support projects and initiatives that adhere to our institutional values. We are not a faceless machine. We are a Catholic institution with Catholic principles.

What baffles me is that controlling tuition and even lowering tuition is not an act of intellect — the answer does not evade those in charge. Indeed, tuition could drop overnight just as it was raised overnight. It does not take some magnificent act of intelligence to control costs. It takes an act of will, one that the university is for some reason unable or unwilling to make. I suppose climbing walls, movie theaters and departmental deficits are too important to re-examine in light of a high cost of attendance.

This leads me back to my point about tuition being a social justice issue. By consistently raising tuition, the university chips away at the opportunities each year for those in poor financial straits to attend our institution. A high cost of attendance is never helpful and always detrimental to those seeking an education, no matter their background, but it is especially so to those who are not in a financially good place to begin with.

Solutions are out there to reverse this trend and the university should look into them. It will mean reduced services, a smaller financial aid budget and some people will be laid off. Services such as Southside Market’s new “express” delivery service can and should be curtailed. Financial aid will have to be reduced as a necessity if tuition is to fall. The two systems are interlinked: If one is raised the other goes with it and if one falls so does the other. Lastly, layoffs, while never desirable, should be a fiscal reality for the university. In my opinion, non-essential personnel should be cut, such as office workers whose jobs are redundant or irrelevant to the university.

If these ideas and others are adopted, the cost of attendance at Loyola will fall and opportunities will open to those who need it most. And after all, isn’t providing opportunities the point of an American, Jesuit Catholic institution? I would hope so.

Dominic Lynch is a contributing columnist. You can contact him at dlynch1@luc.edu

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