Q&A: The cost of higher education



The Indiana Daily Student asked the two presidential candidates who have already officially entered the race about the rising cost of higher education and how they plan to address this issue if they are elected for IU Student Association. Casey Shelburne of the Hoosiers 4 Solutions ticket and Jose Mitjavila of the YOUniversity ticket answered these questions via email.

IDS: What have you heard from students on this topic? What are their specific concerns (not understanding the budget or who is in charge of it, etc.)?

Jose Mitjavila (YOUniversity): I have heard many concerns directly from students and from the results of the Voice Report, which pertain to cost of education. One student specifically brought it to my attention that she did not believe it made sense that she was charged to use the SRSC and HPER, but neither provide sufficient parking for her to come from off campus to campus to use those services.

Textbook prices are another concern I have heard over and over, because not only are they expensive in the first place, but many textbooks that are said to be “required” are barely used in class. The Voice report also indicates that departments such as Career Planning and Services are used by less than 60 percent of students surveyed.

It is apparent that the opportunities to lower the cost of education are everywhere, and we need to find the best ways to keep the cost of getting an education in check.

Casey Shelburne (Hoosiers 4 Solutions): When I talk to students about the issues that concern them, one of the top answers is always the increasing cost of college. The students I’m worried about are the ones working two part-time jobs and full-time in the summers to pay their tuition, room and board, groceries, textbooks and so on.

Most students I talk to understand that college is going to be expensive, but they need it to be just a little easier or they risk being priced out of an education. There are a lot of common-sense steps we can take to reduce that financial burden.

IDS: If you had a list of top three priorities to be addressed during the next IUSA administration, would this be on that list at this point in your campaign? If so, where does it rank, and why?

Mitjavila: The cost of obtaining a higher education is No. 1 because education is the backbone of a successful society in today’s world, and it needs to remain attainable.

Shelburne: There are plenty of issues IUSA needs to address, but the cost of college has to be the top priority for the next administration. IU is one of the top public research universities in the world, but a rising price tag is about to drive IU out of reach when people need education the most.

Right now in Indiana, employers are trying to fill about 300,000 positions, but the 300,000 unemployed Hoosiers aren’t qualified to fill them. We need to think about the future, but we also need to make sure current IU students aren’t pushed out of college in an era when higher education is a necessity.

IDS: Based on their academic and professional experience, how is your team equipped to understand this issue?

Mitjavila: Academically, we have a range of backgrounds in science, business and finance. This diversity will help because we need new innovative ways to approach this problem, and solutions will not be coming from any lone academic focus. Professionally, we have all been hard at work in various groups on campus since we got here and have learned what it takes to make things happen and drive changes.

Shelburne: While it’s important to foster a strong working relationship with the university administration, they are doing all they can to preserve the quality of the University while trying to maintain affordability. The real solutions to the cost of college will be found at the state level.

We’ve worked with and for the Indiana General Assembly, the lieutenant governor and the Indiana Secretary of State. We understand the legislative process and know what it takes to convince legislators to address student concerns.

IDS: How do you plan to approach this issue? Are there specific points that stick out to you, or do you plan to work on the issue as a whole?

Mitjavila: We plan to take a very holistic approach to the cost of higher education. What I mean by that is we don’t have a silver bullet solution to the cost of obtaining a higher education. This issue needs to be attacked from as many angles as possible.

Shelburne: We’re approaching the cost of college by being ambitious, yet realistic. Tuition is not going to be cut in half. What we can do, though, is advocate measures that immediately reduce some costs, while introducing proposals to make college more affordable in the long term.

IDS: Do you have any specific initiatives in mind to help decrease the cost of higher education?

Mitjavila: Specifically, I want to increase student participation on committees that contain faculty, students and administrators. We as students are responsible for voicing our concerns and should utilize channels of communication already in place to do so. Housing is another place where we can see improvements being made.

There are a wide range of prices for living options here on and off campus, and it is time-consuming and difficult to get a good picture of the whole real estate scene at IU. We will be officially announcing the rest of our platforms in the near future, so stay tuned in.

Shelburne: An immediate relief would be a tax-free textbook holiday, saving students hundreds of dollars in state sales tax. We’re also interested in promoting a three-year bachelor’s degree, which would save students a year of expenses and allow them to earn a salary a year earlier.

There are several ways to go about a three-year degree, so we’ll just have to find the one that best fits IU students. Additionally, we’re excited to look into a variety of sustainability issues that could cut costs.

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