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Thursday, December 18, 2014

New tuition hike hurts low-income students

Editor,

While I applaud UNM’s stated intent to encourage faster graduation, the new tuition structure they claim is set up to promote this is incredibly flawed.

As a senior who will only be impacted minimally, I’m more concerned about what this means for the diverse population of students at UNM. Low-income and nontraditional students will see the worst of it, which in turn means further implications for the shape of our state’s socioeconomic landscape.

In the short term, UNM will see more students enrolling in heavier course loads to pay a decreased tuition. This will also mean more students dropping or failing classes when they realize they can’t satisfactorily complete their semesters, lowering their completion rates. Financial aid will be unavailable if their completion rates fall too low, yet students receiving financial aid are more likely to be low-income and nontraditional students — those of us who are ineligible for Lottery Scholarships.

We also have not been informed of how the school will handle students who enroll in 15 hours and later drop classes. Will they owe the school more money?

In the long term, this policy decreases social mobility because it impacts students from low-income backgrounds the hardest. These students already have to work while attending school in order to make ends meet, but they will then end up paying higher tuition and therefore rack up higher student loans — all for the privilege of attending school and needing to work simultaneously. Only students from more economically sound backgrounds, who can afford not to work, will reap the rewards. Being financially stable enough to focus purely on school is already a luxury in itself.

I know I would prefer to finish my degree faster, but the lower tuition I could pay by taking on more credit hours would not come close to making up for that lost income. I imagine most other students feel the same.
Social mobility in the U.S. lags behind our global peers, and policies such as this new tuition structure only serve to make social mobility worse. Marginalized groups already have to work harder than their peers simply to get on a level playing field.

Regressive policies such as this make that possibility even more distant. This is the wrong message to be sending to students from such backgrounds who are trying to improve their odds of getting by.

The regents need to consider the consequences of this regressive tuition structure and find ways to cut costs that do not hurt the student body so disproportionately. Those students hit hardest by this change are the exact students we need completing degrees at UNM. A more educated and diverse workforce can better serve our state’s population.

Katy Hardy
UNM student