This article comes from the Campus Contributor Network. Over the course of the semester, students from across our campus outreach program will analyze their school’s finances and assess the overall return students see on their educational investments.
It’s in the news, it’s talked about constantly and it’s impossible to run away from: the ever-increasing price of tuition. Recently I delved into James Madison University’s budget to find out where money is being allocated at our university. Now that we know the university’s budget focuses on students, let’s look at how JMU uses their students’ money.
Recent drawbacks in state-funding funding for higher education are a large factor behind the rise in tuition prices. Some even speculate that colleges are raising their tuition prices so they can stand out to applicants as a high-quality program.
One could argue that inflation is driving up prices, but tuition inflation has outgrown general inflation significantly.
So, we are paying enormous rates to be here. Where is that money actually going?
Last year, a large sum of total expenditures – 67.6 percent to be exact – went to academic-related items. This is positive, since we are paying to get an education; the largest portion of our money is going directly to just that. The rest of our tuition dollars are divided between institutional support, physical plant and student services.
Taken together, institutional support and physical plant are 26 percent of expenses, leaving only six percent for student services. Although only a small portion of the money is going back to student services specifically, the large sums being used in other areas are benefiting students, as well, such as the renovations made to the UREC. These features make JMU stand out among the rest of colleges.
In reality, JMU is charging to simply keep the lights on. That’s one of the main reasons why the university began Giving Day – to raise money and hopefully take some of the burden off of students.
While JMU does aim to keep tuition prices low, college is still a large financial burden. JMU students can certainly apply for financial aid, but that often won’t cover the full extent of their needs. However, some argue that if colleges were to provide more financial help to certain students, it could, in fact, drive up the price of regular tuition for the masses.
So, I believe JMU is being as fair as they possibly can. They aim to keep tuition low and have it fund the basics so all students have the opportunity to receive an education at a beautiful school and not graduate with thousands in debt.
As achieving a college degree becomes increasingly normalized, we almost have no choice but to pay the ever ballooning costs of tuition. Thankfully for JMU students, the money that we are giving to the school is directly coming back to us through our education, student services and beautiful campus. While paying tuition can be a tough pill to swallow, it’s important to understand that JMU is truly looking out for its students.
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