Feb 012012
 
Authors: Colleen Canty

A recent student voice survey conducted by the Associated Students of CSU revealed students may be dreaming too big for their checkbooks.

The survey highlighted a major disconnect between students’ desires for an improved quality of academic environment and their willingness to pay for it.

Although 66.27 percent of the 501 respondents regarded the university’s current academic environment as good (on a scale ranging from very poor to great), 53.49 percent believed it needed to be improved in areas most important to students, such as clubs, student organizations and student services.

But when asked just how much they were willing to pay to achieve this, students were unreceptive to the idea of dishing out a larger cost of attendance. An overwhelming 82.02 percent said they were unwilling to pay more.

Similarly, 46.22 percent believed the quality of academics needed to improve, with 94.75 percent defining quality professors as a “very important” factor in this. But heated comments about tuition, which funds the 31 percent of university expenditure on academic priorities such as teacher salaries, described the current $6,307 tuition as “outrageous” and “detrimental.”

The survey amounted to one equation that simply didn’t compute – students want more quality academics but don’t want to pay more tuition.

Unfortunately, in light of Colorado’s state-funding crisis, they must shoulder tuition hikes to fund these academic priorities.

So what’s more important –– students’ wallets or educations?

“In a lot of cases their hands are tied as to what they can do with these increases (in tuition),” said ASCSU’s Director of Governmental Affairs Chase Eckerdt. “I think fundamentally we need to remember education quality, to take care of faculty members and to recruit quality leaders and professors.”

The survey also called attention to name recognitions, which 48.2 percent of respondents saw as “very important” regarding finding career opportunities.

Eckerdt was pleased the vast majority (79.41 percent) of respondents rated the value of their degree at CSU as good or great, but he recognized students’ overwhelmingly negative response when faced with the decision to contribute more to avenues that would potentially amplify the value of their degree.

“What’s interesting is, as we saw in the survey, students were saying ‘I want my degree to have name recognition.’ They want to go to an employer in New York and have them recognize a CSU degree, which may not be the case right now in some ways,” he said. “It’s an interesting dynamic to see that on the survey and in individual comments, but when given suggestions needed to achieve that, students are more hesitant to commit.”

Commercial marketing, “world-class” athletics and campus aesthetics were alluded to as potential aids in earning the campus more visibility nation-wide, all of which were met with dwindling enthusiasm.

While the consensus showed students didn’t want to spend money in these areas, it also revealed a common confusion among students of where exactly the university was putting their bucks.

The many anonymous voices on the survey were outraged at increasing funds being spent on “the worthless football team” and “unnecessary construction.”

Jared Price, sophomore finance major, is also under that impression.

“It bothers me about the construction projects,” Price said. “I guess I don’t know for sure that it’s taking our money, but I’d much rather have a lower tuition bill than an amazingly pretty campus.”

Price works 25 hours per week at his on-campus job in the Lory Student Center and, for this white, middle-class male with few financial aid and scholarship opportunities, a 9 percent tuition hike is a big deal.

“Next year I’ll be looking for a second job to start working 30 to 35 hours,” he said.

And cutting back on credits isn’t an option for Price.

“It will be a lot tougher, but it will actually be important to take more credits as I can’t afford a fifth year,” he said.

While ringing up a customer’s sandwich wrap in the LSC cafeteria, freshman social work major Cailea Eisenberg explained the reasons she trekked from California to Colorado for a college education, despite the larger tuition bill she knew she’d be burdened with.

“I’m a huge outdoors person and just wanted to get outside, so I chose to come to CSU,” Eisenberg said. “I’ve been working since I was 15 and even gave up a car to earn it. Now I will probably have to pick up more shifts here (at That’s a Wrap) and won’t be able to take as many courses or get outside as much; It’s going to suck really bad.”

According to CSU Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda, and CSU spokesman Kyle Henley, students may be misinterpreting their tuition hikes and failing to acknowledge them as a result of higher education’s decline in state funding over the past 10 years.

“Funding drops so tuition goes up,” Henley said. “There must be a cost shift to maintain the value and quality of education.”

“We don’t favor it as the mechanism of choice,” Miranda said. “We have a relatively modest tuition rate compared to peer institutions operating under similar constraints, and I feel it’s still a great value.”

The university is doing a number of things on both the expenditures and revenue side to fight the tuition battle. According to Miranda, CSU is striving to cut expenses by reducing utility bills through using less paper and going electronic whenever possible.

On the revenue side of things, the school is looking for alternative streams of funding like developing its distance education (online courses) to “help navigate through this hard financial time.”

The recent poll has made two things clear: students are relatively pleased with the quality of the education they are getting, but think it could be better and communication between the university and students may need to see some changes.

“I think we all are striving to communicate the financial realities of the situation to all students,” Miranda said. “We try every year to tweak our method of communication to make it more effective; we hope it’s getting better and higher percentages of students are becoming informed.”

The newest financial accountability report can be found on the website of division of budget and finance beginning next week.

Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:18 pm

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