Increases too much at once


Editorial Board

The Issue:The cost of attending SDSU will increase by a substantial amount for the 2008-09 school year.

Our View:With the economy in a recession and the costs of everything going up, it would have been nice of the university and the Board of Regents to make these increasing costs to students more gradual.

At the end of March, the South Dakota Board of Regents set the tuition and fees cost for the upcoming school year. Their increases–a 5.9 percent increase in tuition and fees along with an extra 2 percent increase in fees for science and laboratory upgrades-increasing the cost of attending SDSU.

For an undergraduate S.D. resident taking 16 credits a semester, this raises the cost from $2,864 (the average tuition and fees cost per semester for the 2007-08 school year) to about $3,090. The increase in tuition and fees from the 2006-07 year to this year was 6.2 percent – still the highest tuition and fees increase when compared to surrounding states, including Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.

The impending 7.9 percent increase is not the end of the rising costs. There will also be a 4.3 to 4.4 percent increase in residence hall costs. In addition, there is a planned 2.8 percent increase in meal plan prices. The average residence hall dweller will pay at least $600 to $700 more this coming year because of all the fee increases.

The BOR says these increases will cover inflation, the cost of operating the institutions and to support rising minimum wage and utility costs, as well as salary policies that attempt to make SDSU faculty salaries more competitive.

SDSU does have a problem with being competitive in drawing in new faculty members and rewarding teachers who do their job well. We need to compete in a national market in recruiting new, intelligent people to SDSU. For example, according to statistics from March 2007, salaries of faculty and exempt staff in South Dakota (a full professor at SDSU earned an average of $70,372 this year) trailed those in surrounding states at a rate of 5.59 percent and nationally at the rate of 25.3 percent.

While each charge individually does not seem bad, the total increase seems like too much all at one time. Students-especially incoming freshmen students who were given cost estimates from the 2007-08 academic year and will bear about 12.3 percent of this total aggregate increase in cost-will feel blind sided.

Where exactly is this extra money going? Only 2.6 percent of the increase in cost is due to inflation. Prices continue to increase every year, but the explanations given for some of these other increases seem vague and overbroad.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much students can do about this. However, students will be much more receptive to increases if they are informed, in detail, exactly what they are paying for. For example, a 2 percent increase is planned in order to help renovate the science labs and other facilities at state schools. Most people at the state’s universities agree that these improvements are necessary and, since they know where this money is going, they are more willing to pay the difference.

Decision makers should remember that these large financial increases are even harder to bear during a recession and more consideration should go into decisions that involve large increases.