UCC Mainstream Online

Students rally for secure tuition rates

Megan Morehouse / Mainstream
Oregon students rallied together to motivate Legislators to put $550 million toward community colleges in order to “freeze” tuition costs.

Over 500 students from Oregon community colleges and universities rallied in Salem on Feb. 12 in front of the State Capitol building to request tuition caps. The students’ goal was a stronger investment in higher learning. Although nothing was finalized at the rally, come spring, representatives will vote on reducing the cost of tuition.

Although tuition isn’t free at the moment, in the future it possibly could be, if Obama’s proposal for free college tuition nationally is approved.

Meantime in Oregon, students are concerned. “Paying rent, electricity, water bills, gas and food are just a few financial burdens a college student has to face on top of paying for tuition,” Ashley Morin, a current UCC student said. Those burdens, like tuition, have been getting heavier. Oregon rent has increased approximately 20 percent since 2011, while utilities on average have been annually increasing more than inflation.

“Offering free tuition would remove a large part of the financial barrier to going to college and therefore would encourage many more students to attend.  Student loan debt is a huge problem in the U.S.,” Susan Taylor, director of grants and planned giving, said. Taylor supports stronger investments in higher education. “My initial thoughts were that free tuition is amazing – what a democratic way to provide a path out of poverty, an opportunity for each student to change his or her own destiny.”

If the government were to implement free tuition, western society and the community would have to change. Taylor travelled to Germany to study free tuition in education systems. She said the college environment was a bit different than what we have here. “At first glance, a German university looks just like an American university.  The difference is that in Germany, institutes of higher education are centers for academics – not athletics, not extra student services, not community education, not even student housing, in most cases.” The cost of free tuition is rolled into the tax basis.

“Another downside is that despite the perceived opportunity available [in Germany], inequality still exists in education.  Many lower class and immigrant children do not make it to college because of other barriers that prevent them from having the ability to go to college,” Taylor said. Free tuition could help all social classes access college, but just to keep Oregon community college tuition from increasing throughout the state, representatives need to increase the community college budget allocation to $550 million; a key proposal of the rally.

No matter where students live, there are pros and cons to investing in lowered tuition rates in higher education systems.
“I don’t believe that we could implement free tuition just at UCC; it would have to be part of a statewide or national initiative. At the micro-scale, it would be incredible to be able to lift the burden of tuition payments for students.  At the macro-scale, it would take a major undertaking with enormous political impact,” Taylor said.