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Last Monday night at Senate students voted almost unanimously to back an ASCMC proposal to increase student fees by $15. Currently at $245 a year, student fees contribute to the total cost of attending CMC, and are what fund ASCMC’s budget. If Executive Board approves this proposal on Sunday night, then ASCMC will be asking the Board of Trustees to raise the cost of a CMC education. I think doing this would be a mistake.

A proposal like this should only arise out of necessity, and I do not think this threshold has been met under present circumstances. Budgets can run tight on ASCMC, but on the whole we do a good job of performing our responsibilities with what we currently have. With careful planning, ASCMC can reprioritize areas that students feel are lacking without making major sacrifices.

When taken in a broader context, I think there is an even more compelling reason to oppose this fee increase. I will be the first to say that no price tag can ever capture the value of my experience at CMC, but $60,010—our current estimated cost of attendance in 2014—is a ton of money. What concerns me more, however, is how quickly this number is rising. From my freshman to sophomore year, yearly tuition (excluding room & board) increased by $1,845. Sophomore to junior year saw a rise of $1,540.  For current seniors, tuition is now $5,986 more expensive than it was their freshman year. Even with inflation, this is no trivial increase.

Supporters of the increased fee initiative fairly characterize the proposal’s benefits. This relatively insignificant added cost would enable ASCMC to expand the programing it offers to students, and the financial aid office would cover the $15 increase for students receiving financial assistance. This proposal would also restore dorm budgets to their full 2011-2012 levels—something I fought hard but unsuccessfully for during the budgeting process last semester.

However, if the trend in increasing tuition continues as it has the past four years, current freshmen will have a tuition bill of $65,996 by the time they are seniors. This kind of money places a significant burden on many families who do not qualify for financial aid, but the consequences for students receiving financial assistance are perhaps even more dire in the long run. When the cost of attending CMC increases, the calculated family contribution remains constant and the financial aid office makes up the difference. At some point this becomes unsustainable. We have already seen the elimination of the no packaged loan policy, and in recent years many colleges similar to CMC have dropped their need blind admission process.

This is unacceptable, and ASCMC should lead by example. At senate, proponents of the increase showed the trend of student fees being raised every 3-4 years. When the Board of Trustees increases tuition, I hope precedent and the norm play no role in their decision. We should apply the same scrutiny to ASCMC’s budget as we want the Board to apply to the whole college. If we allocate money wisely, I think ASCMC will do just fine with our current resources.

If the student fee increase passes, is it possible that we would see a marginal increase in quality of services ASCMC provides? Probably. But is it worth sending the message to the Board of Trustees—even just symbolically—that we’re complacent with this kind of rising tuition? Absolutely not.

Article updated 2/23 at 2:03pm: The original article published was an incorrect version. The article has been updated to its final form.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Despite the fact that I somewhat agree with the article, doesn’t giving Ben this level of publicity through our primary student news organization a few days before the ASCMC election provide him with an unfair advantage over the other candidates? No to mention, the article is specifically focused on an ASCMC issue. Perhaps the other candidates should be given the opportunity to write a full article on what they deem ASCMC’s most pressing matters to be.

    • The Forum agreed to publish this after Ben got permission from the other Presidential candidates to go ahead with it.

    • The Forum also explicitly told all the candidates that they would have the opportunity to write articles on issues to be published before the election.

  2. I think it’s pretty clear that in terms of sheer finance (the way a lot of CMCers like to look at things), Ben would be the best president.

    He said in the debate that he would give part of the presidential salary back to ASCMC. He was the only candidate to do that. Until Pai, every president gave about half of their salary back to ASCMC. Pai and Gavin are the only recent presidents who haven’t. It’s ridiculous to increase student fees AND pay the president such an exorbitant amount. Ben seems to be the only candidate who recognizes or cares about this. He has already demonstrated that he would make the best financial decisions for both students and ASCMC.

    • One note: I, for one, find it problematic to expect a 22-year-old college student to agree to return half of his pay to his employer as a condition of employment. Even if it’s not a condition, I don’t agree with its being considered in whether to elect a person. Most ASCMC presidents give up substantial other opportunities to take the position. I, for one, saw a marked drop in my grades senior year, because of the amount of time I spent on ASCMC matters. I also gave up the opportunity to serve as an RA. Neither of those realities makes me an anomaly among ASCMC presidents.

      It’s also troubling to think that a person is more qualified to be ASCMC President if he comes from a background that allows him to turn down compensation. I don’t know Ben’s background, nor can I speak to most of the folks who have allegedly returned portions of their compensation. But I know that doing so is a luxury not available to all CMC students qualified to lead ASCMC.

      If people believe an officer is paid too much, amend the Constitution. For the reasons laid out in the first paragraph, I’ll disagree with the change from afar, and I hope others would, as well. But as long as the policy stands, I encourage you not to judge the quality of a candidate by his ability or inability to serve pro bono. It’s not fair to the candidates and it’s not fair to the students of CMC.

      • All three candidates come from backgrounds where they could turn down the compensation. In this case I think it’s fair to take it into consideration (as just a note) who is willing to give back their salary, because it shows that the position means more to them than just as a form of employment.

    • I think the offer to give back half a salary is very noble, and certainly an admirable thing. However, the ability to do that should not be the basis for presidential viability. ASCMC President consumes an immense amount of time – time that could be spent working and making money on another job. As someone on full scholarship who has to pay for all books, I can tell you that not everyone can afford to give back the money. Just something to think about – I think more time should be spent considering other areas of the candidate’s platforms.

  3. Ben,

    This is a great article and addresses a very important question in our community. I think you offer a ton of great ideas but I think we should consider a few points.
    Of all of the things that our tuition goes towards, student fees provide, arguably, the greatest direct benefit to students. These fees ensure that all students receive an equally enjoyable and fulfilling experience at CMC. This increase will not only alleviate naturally rising costs, but also increase the breadth of opportunities that ASCMC can support by increasing funding to clubs, dorms, and student trips. This is especially important because of the newly placed restrictions on the Crown Special Events Fund which we can no longer use to subsidize concert tickets and other similar trips (See Dean Heather’s e-mail on Feb 13th). Although an increase in student fees won’t completely mitigate the effects of the new restrictions, it will be a good start to counteract them. What I think we should do instead is to work closely with the Board of Trustees by increasing student involvement in the recently-launched Student Imperative and by exploring other resources that CMC can provide to students on Financial Aid (maybe even trying to convince DOS to reduce restrictions on the Crown Fund). ASCMC can do its own part by focusing more on additional costs to students (e.g. tickets for Wedding Party) and finding ways to mitigate these costs- even one $25 event costs more than the $15 raise in student fees.

    Needless to say, if the student fees are increased, as the poster below covers in great detail, it is essential that ASCMC use this money efficiently in order to validate such a cost.

    I look forward to tonight’s debate and to continued dialogue on this issue.

    -Julian

  4. Great article Ben. I may not completely agree with everything you said in the article, but I am glad you are showing interest in things other than events. Although I still do not think this side of ASCMC is necessarily your strength when compared to the other candidates, it is great to know that you are working on it and trying to focus on new initiatives. Good luck. May the best man win.

  5. At least Ben goes hard relative to the other ASCMC presidents. This is college, I want our student body leader to be a rager. College is for fun, I don’t care about policies or whatever, I just want to have fun.

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