The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Tuition increase causes financial worries for students

SMU students should expect a 7.5 percent tuition increase for the upcoming 2003-2004 school year, according to Michael Dorff, speaker of the Senate. Can students afford it?

According to SMU’s financial aid office, over 70 percent of students attending SMU receive some sort of financial aid or scholarship. Officials say they will be hard pressed to find enough financial aid money to help students cover the increase. As a result, many of these students do not know if they can continue at the university with the proposed increase.

“Since when did education have such a high price?” said Samantha Needham, a sophomore who receives financial aid and scholarship money. “I already have huge loans to pay off. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

Most of the increase in tuition will be to keep up with an expected 6 percent inflation next year, according to the Student Senate. The other 1.5 percent is for the proposed renovation and expansion of the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. Senators said the 1.5 percent increase will continue until a private donor agrees to fund the expansion. The Board of Trustees voted to approve the 7.5 percent increase February 21.

Tuition and required fees for undergraduate students taking at least 12 hours will increase $1,646, in 2003-2004, bringing the total to $23,588, according to SMU Forum Online.

In 1991, the total cost to attend SMU was $5,884. Since then, the cost of tuition and fees has increased $17,704, an increase of 400 percent in 12 years.

In past years, tuition increases posed fewer problems because financial aid awards and scholarships were increased proportionately. But, according to June Hagler, a financial aid advisor at SMU, Texas funding for financial aid will decrease by about 10 percent.

SMU relies on both private and public funding for financial aid. Many individual donations and endowments provide merit and need-based scholarships to students who qualify.

Much of the private funding is invested in the stock market. The donors set up their contributions as endowments, and the money allocated for scholarships is the income earned from the principal investment.

However, the economic situation in the United States has severely deteriorated the cumulative losses over the past three years.

“Some of those scholarship departments lost money last year in the stock market,” Hagler said.

When SMU makes little or no money off the endowments, the university cannot provide as much financial assistance to students. The income on some of the scholarships was as low as $500 a year, according to Hagler. Many students have begun to worry that this increasing lack of financial assistance will force them to withdraw from the university.

“If the tuition continues to increase and many students can no longer go to SMU, this school runs the risk of living up to its ‘Southern Millionaires University’ reputation,” said Paige Brown, student coordinator for Mustang Corral and other new student orientation programs.

Tuition is not the only thing coming between students and the university. The cost of living at SMU is becoming more difficult for students to afford. The newsletter said student housing fees will also increase 7.5 percent or $347, which means that students living on campus for the 2003-2004 school year will pay an average of $4,971 for room and $3,420 for board.

Why are so many tuition dollars going to the Dedman Center project when many students’ education is in jeopardy?

The purpose of the Dedman Center renovation and expansion is to help recruit and retain students at SMU so it can stay on the same level as Texas benchmark schools such as Texas Christian University, Baylor University and Southwestern University, two representatives from the Board of Trustees said. However, some students said the increase in tuition to pay for the renovation and expansion – paired with a shortage of financial aid – could have the opposite effect.

“I feel that SMU needs the Dedman Center expansion because of retention and recruitment purposes,” said Ashley Earnest, a first-year senator and student body secretary-elect. “However, I do not feel that it should be at the cost of losing some of our brightest students who may not be as financially secure as others.”

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