If You're Reading This, You're Making a Blind Investment
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
At the end of February, Bucknell University announced that during strategic planning, Administration ruled to increase tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year by 3.75%— roughly $2,616. This decision brings the comprehensive fee for one year of academic instruction at Bucknell University to $72,370.
In the email sent to students and our families, Administration emphasized that this increase in tuition was motivated by the administration’s desire to provide increasing opportunities for students to “achieve great personal and professional success in life and make meaningful contributions to their communities.”
Personal success and the ability to make meaningful contributions to one’s community are honorable causes; however, they are also things that any student who is willing to work hard is deserving of. Bucknell’s tuition—even before the announced raise—makes all of its resources inaccessible to an alarming percentage of students and families across the country. The implication being made by the grossly expensive tuition at Bucknell is that a family’s ability to pay for a university education constitutes the deservedness of their child to obtain these “personal and professional successes” and make “meaningful contributions.”
It would seem that Bucknell’s Administration is backwardly stating that they only want to provide these opportunities to students who have the preexisting resources that would enable them to achieve success in a more protected environment that their peers. In other words, they want to provide these opportunities for students who have money.
But the most twisted part of this announcement is that it came partnered with an email linking students to a draft of a "Plan for Bucknell 2025." In this plan, President John Bravman and his staff detail three priorities. Briefly, two of these three priorities are: building a “diverse” community, and creating “structures and programs” to allow students to “thrive in a diverse world.”
These priorities are demonstrative of (at bare minimum) a facade that Bucknell sees as desirable. It seems to the outside world that Bucknell puts an emphasis the diversification of its student and faculty populations, and that our administration recognizes the relevance of diversity in our world. The image that we present is appealing—but it is starkly contrasted by our actions.
High tuition costs are one of the largest inhibitors of diversity on college campuses. Executive directors of data and analytics at Princeton University conducted a sample which attempted to analyze the effects of increases in tuition on a college’s diversity, and which included 597 four-year private institutions, and 1,000 public two-year institutions. The results of the sample showed that for every 1% tuition is raised, diversity decreases by 0.013%.
According to this survey, diversity on this campus will decrease by 0.04875% as a result of the decisions recently made by President Bravman and his staff—and that data was taken from public institutions, which tend to be less expensive than private institutions. It is unimaginable what kind of effects tuition increases have at schools like Bucknell.
Tuition increases are not irregular. In fact, they’re quite typical. Schools are constantly in need of funding to pay for new buildings, hire new staff, and increase quality of resources on campus. But aside from the fact that tuition at Bucknell is already ridiculously expensive, the thing that makes this request for even more money from our families particularly absurd is that Bucknell’s budget is not transparent. This means that we have no idea where all of the millions of dollars students pour into the school is going, and we are essentially making a blind investment.
As a result of continued frustration with Bucknell’s lack of budgetary transparency, a few staff members have drafted a motion for transparency that has received overwhelming support from the rest of the faculty. To the point of the motion, a university’s use of funds is a reflection of its values and priorities. If we are unable to see the way that our school uses the insane amount of money we give to it, we can’t hold them accountable for it. The size of Bravman’s bonus should be visible. The cost of Academic East should be visible. Funding towards diversification efforts should be visible. It is our right as customers of this University.