As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has faced numerous unprecedented challenges. The Saint Joseph’s University administration was forced to come up with a strategic plan where students are offered the same quality of education, while keeping the members of the Hawk Hill community safe. This has resulted in offering students the ability to take a fully online semester or choose to stay on campus while taking classes in a variety of modalities. However, while the lack of students living on campus has resulted in less use of the campus’ resources and there have been significant budget cuts recently, SJU remains to raise their tuition.
According to College Tuition Compare, the school’s tuition and fees during 2019-2020, 2020-2021, and 2021-2022 have been $46,550, $47,940, and $49,372, respectively. That is, in the last two academic years, the university has experienced a 6.06% increase in tuition. With this in mind and knowing that the university has experienced budget cuts in recent years, we wanted to know what students were thinking in regards to this increase and whether they believe the money is being used fairly.
Have you seen the university tuition raise being reflected in your experience at SJU?
Sofia Soto, a junior Early Childhood Education major, has been fully virtual since the start of the pandemic. She was shocked when she learned how much tuition was raised over the last three years and expresses that she has not seen that raise being reflected on her experience on campus. She states, “For example, I have not seen improvements in the library nor the cafeteria to name a few”.
On the other hand, Nara Finkelstein, a junior International Business and Food Marketing major, currently attends in-person classes. She states that she has not seen the tuition raise being reflected and that, on the contrary, she believes it has been worse over the past year. Finkelstein says, “Even the way the school has reacted to their students’ needs do not reflect the increase in price”. The spring and fall break being replaced by “Health and Wellness Days” have not added to her experience either. She also feels that she is grateful for some of her incredible professors, but some believe that, because some classes are online, students have more hours to dedicate to their class. Finklestein also describes the campus as “dead”, and that there is a lack of motivation to learn.
Do you feel that the raise has been worth it?
Soto explains that the raise has not been worth it for her personally. She decided to take her classes online due to financial reasons and health concerns. She thought that by taking a virtual education she would be able to save some money, yet she had the same financial obligations to academics as someone who was able to be in person and take advantage of the university’s resources.
“I don’t see anything on campus which would make the higher tuition costs worth it”, Nara states. She acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it tough for campus to be as lively as before; however, she would appreciate it if there were more events that students could participate in like the Hawk Hill Production’s Winterfest. Finkelstein states, “The Hawk Hill Production are the only people making an effort to keep our spirits high, the school itself in contrast does nothing”.
Do you feel that SJU is clear on what the budget is being used for?
Soto expresses that she was not even aware that the tuition raise was so increasingly drastic. “I don’t know if it’s on my part, but I have also rarely seen any announcements on what the university is using the money for, or whether they are remodeling stuff”, Sofia states. She says that the only changes she’s seen or heard of are the pathway across from Sweeney Field and Arrupe Hall, the new Jesuit’s residence on Lapsley Lane. All in all, she believes that there needs to be more clarity on what the money is being spent on because, as of now, she is unsure of why they are raising the tuition.
Similarly, Finkelstein also expresses that the only development she’s witnessed is Arrupe Hall. Even working as a Hawk Host, she feels as though she is completely in the dark as to why the school needs to increase tuition and what they are using the added money on. She specifies, “Still no change in the quality of food in Campion, events have not increased, nothing”.
Overall, for both of these students, there seems to be a lack of clarity on where St. Joseph’s University is spending its budget on. Even though they both have different academic experiences, they express their confusion on why tuition has been raised at its rate and why they have not seen any evident improvements.