Rodenbaugh: Blaming tuition and fee hikes on taxpayers doesn’t tell the whole story

Mikaela Rodenbaugh

In a recent interview with the Collegian, Dr. Tony Frank cited a shift in who’s paying for our higher education, going on to say that the biggest reason that we have seen an increase in our tuition for the 47th year in a row, and at a pace far higher than inflation, is a lack of state funding. At best, that doesn’t tell the whole story. At worst, it’s a bald-faced lie.

The cost of attedance at higher education institutions is indeed rising, and one of the biggest culprits is administrative costs. CSU has a lot of examples of this. One great one is the cost of our university gym. It ranks third in the nation for quality, but that sort of lavish administrative perk doesn’t come cheap.


Student fees are being used across universities to provide lots of convenient services for the students in attendance. The problem is that every student pays for their fees, regardless of whether they utilize these services. With the rise of interest in our university, it allows colleges to line their pockets with profits, and it’s showing at the foot of our bills.

Furthermore, Universities use these amenities to attract more enrollment and profit off the larger numbers of students who go to their university seeking a nice gym, or are interested in the free counseling services or the supplemental health insurance plans available here. Ultimately, Dr. Tony Frank and other university presidents and officials have been placing on the blame on the public for not funding our students enough, and while there may be a decrease in public funding, it’s certainly not enough of a decrease to explain the continuous rise in cost of attendance here, which has completely outpaced rates of inflation.

When we believe administrators who invoke the same old sob stories about how everyone in our state has given up on us and that’s why our bills are getting bigger and bigger, we have fallen victim to a classic public relations answer. The reality of the situation is far more nuanced. The myriad programs and buildings and the increase of university employees are benefits for students, but they are not voluntary expenses. We all pay, and we pay dearly.

As higher educational institutions include mandatory expenses that are more and more frivolous, it is time to ask ourselves: who should be responsible for this funding? I’d argue, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the state to make up for all these extras that aren’t ultimately contributing directly to student’s education. Nor should it be the responsibility of everyone who is not taking advantage of these services.

The idea that there is no way to opt out of paying for services that many students never use that have nothing to do with their degrees is dangerous for students, but genius for universities. We have essentially let universities across the nation cash a blank check to profit as businesses and assembly lines for degrees.

What has resulted from our complacency is a series of simplified answers and lack of oversight is a higher education crisis that puts the lower class in a terrible position to go to college, and adds unnecessary financial stress to middle class families just looking to send their kids to college. All this so that universities can offer ‘complimentary’ gym memberships, juice bars, massages and healthcare.

None of these things are free; they are being taken directly out of the pockets of our students and their families, and nobody has an option to avoid paying for these things that have nothing to do with getting an education.

Education shouldn’t be something unattainable to those who aren’t rich, nor should going to college be representative of visiting a spa. Administrators, I’m calling your bluff. You can’t put this all on the backs of taxpayers, it’s time to own up to your own blatant profiteering.

Next time you hear someone saying that lowering public funds for education is the reason college has become double, triple, or sometimes quadruple the amount it was for our parents, I implore you to think critically about what you’re really paying for.