Tuition reform is needed to keep student debt down

by Matthew Boardman

According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the national average of a private, four-year college was $6,330 in 1981. Taking inflation into account, the equivalent cost of $6,330 today would be $15,306, yet in 2012 the national average was $33,716. Even with accounting for inflation, the cost of college has more than doubled in three decades.

How does this apply to Whitworth? I love everything about Whitworth—that’s why I’m here. Everything, that is, except for the money. One would expect that, after paying almost $50K, that would be the end of his or her college-related expenses. Yet dispersed around student life are many exasperating trivialities to further sap your bank account after you’ve already handed over your life savings.

Three-ring binders and spiral notebooks at the Whitworth bookstore are more than twice the price of similar quality material that can be found at nearby chain stores, which is to say nothing of the cost of the textbooks themselves. Surely the $4,000 you forked over for half a bedroom covers your laundry expenses? No? Does the $33,000 of tuition money cover the cost of printing assignments for your classes? Nope. It’s these minor expenditures, these little ways to slowly drain you to your last cent, that rile me.

To speak favorably of our beloved Whitworth, it does provide a tremendous amount of financial aid to its students. The average financial aid for an incoming freshman this school year is $31,897, and, remarkably, 100% of the class is receiving aid. With nearly $32,000 deducted from the $47,908, the cost of Whitworth would appear to be roughly $16,000 a year—a price relatively low when compared to other private institutions and even some state universities. Wendy Olson, Director of Financial Aid stated, “The 2014 graduates from Whitworth, who began as a freshman and borrowed student loans, will be leaving with $26,132 in average student loan debt. This includes evey type of student loan that the student borrowed, whether from the federal Department of Education or a private lender. This figure does not include any federal PLUS loans which would have been borrowed by a parent.”

Whitworth does indeed do a lot for its students and it can do even more. It can make its bookstore a place that students actually want to spend money, instead of a place that they use only as a distasteful last resort. Provide better, or at the very least, similar prices on supplies and books than the competition! Drop the extraneous charges for printing paper and laundry! Still, these measurements are but small steps. What about the big picture, the disproportionate inflation of college costs as a whole?

What I’d love to say is that Whitworth could lead the charge in dropping tuition prices to reflect what they should be, but I don’t hold any real hope for that in the near future. The cost of college is a national problem, and will take a national movement to resolve. Whether the state or federal government will take action is for the constituents to decide. Whitworth’s students have a history of being activists instead of bystanders. Let the recovery of affordable college—that doesn’t haunt you with debt—be the next great endeavor. Publicly protest the rising cost of college that is disproportionate to inflation. Social media, emails and letters to government officials, organized discussions and solution-seeking: All are excellent methods for taking a stand. Only when the muttering under your breath is shouted will it be heard.

Contact Matthew Boardman at

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