By The Editorial Board
Do you know how much your tuition will increase next year? Do you know if it is bigger or smaller than the average increase, or how the university justifies its decision to increase? Do you know who approves the financial year budget, and when?
Well, you should. This is your student loan debt, part of $1.3 trillion dollars of it nationally. It may delay the first down payment on your house or the amount of time it takes for you to say “I do.” Your university should have to explain how it is using your money, and why it is using more of it this year than last year.
But it doesn’t, and you didn’t notice.
To be fair, the editorial board did not notice either until recently. The Fordham Ram set about reporting on next year’s tuition after we noticed student newspapers at our peer institutions, Boston College (The Heights) and Georgetown University (The Hoya), have been doing the same for quite some time now.
“The Georgetown University Board of Directors recently approved the increase in undergraduate tuition, which will bring the cost of a Georgetown education up from $37,536 to $38,616 beginning next fall, according to a university press release,” Sarah Mimms reported in The Hoya in 2009. At the end of February 2016, one of The Hoya’s reporters, Matthew Larson, wrote: “Despite Georgetown University’s relatively low endowment, the Georgetown Board of Directors announced its approval of the university’s largest-ever increase in financial aid for students in the coming academic year Feb. 16.”
If this sort of announcement by Fordham administration seems foreign to you, that’s because it is. The Board of Trustees does not send emails out to the students, certainly not when it pertains to budgeting issues. In fact, university trustees are largely anonymous figures to the student body. Each of their names are listed on the Fordham website, but with no biographies listed next to them. The Board of Trustees holds four meetings annually, but all of them are closed to the public. Minutes are taken at these meetings, but those, too, are not publicly available. The date, time and location of these meetings are not publicized. The contents of these meetings, including decisions made by the board regarding the operating budget, are not publicized. The chief financial officer also does not hold open meetings.
In essence, the most important information regarding Fordham’s operations are a mystery, and the university does not mind if it stays that way. At least, that would explain why three emails to the chief financial officer, one email to the director of communications, one email to the secretary of the board of trustees, one email to the vice president of finance, and two emails to the university president regarding either Fordham’s finances or its direction have not been returned.
Perhaps the reason why the administration is being so blatantly opaque is that no one has ever asked these questions before. It is possible that no one has ever been concerned about tuition hikes, or never expected to hear about them anyway. Perhaps we have become accustomed to an arbitrary number being updated on our e-bill. Perhaps we have never wanted answers, or thought they would be handed to us.
Though the editorial board finds that difficult to believe, if this were the case, it is a dangerous mindset to have adopted. Of course a student body would develop a culture of apathy if it expected no explanations from its administration on major decisions. The last explanations of a financial nature came from the Office of the President in October and November 2014, when Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of university, wrote about Fordham’s capital projects and finances. In November 2015, he released a “monthly update” (that does not come every month) to the university community which conspicuously left out any financial information.
Tuition, at $46,120 for Fall 2015-2016 entrants to Rose Hill, is higher now than it ever has been. Tuition is higher than the average starting salary of Fordham College Rose Hill graduates. If what it takes to create a transparent system of reporting finances is a formal request, then please consider this editorial that request. As a student news source, we will never be able to perform our duty of keeping the campus appraised of university finances unless the university meets us half way.