My fellow students and I hadn’t been standing on Ka’ahumanu Ave. in Kahului for long when the juggler jogged by. Actually, he wasn’t juggling at that point, but was just holding his balls. He took a look at our anti-tuition hike placards warning “Equality Through Education,” “Tuitions Hiked, Dreams Ruined” and the ever popular “Starving Student Will Work for Tuition.”
“Give it a rest,” he said, then juggled away.
The University of Hawaii Board of Regents’ plans to jack up community college resident tuition from the current $47 per unit to a whopping $89 per unit by 2011 have become big news. After all, that translates into an increase of around $2,000 per term for full-time university students.
But missing from the mainstream media discussion is that the hikes will almost certainly lead to a decrease in college enrollment. Yet UH school officials don’t seem concerned about that. A tuition proposal briefing linked to the University of Hawaii web site (www.hawaii.edu/ovppp/tuition) claims that a steady tuition rise of three and a half percent in 2004 has translated into more students attending MCC. Of course, the proposed tuition raise will be vastly greater than a meager three and half percent—we’re talking about a better than 14 percent increase each year.
Can anyone say “financial assistance?”
This comes at a bad time. According to the same website mentioned above, the U.S. Department of Education is restricting the eligibility for the popular PELL Grants. While President George W. Bush has announced that the maximum amount of money available from the PELL grant will rise $100 a year for five years, eventually reaching a total of $4,550, it will be more difficult for students under 24 and still considered to be dependants to qualify for that money.
Students in Hawaii have actually enjoyed some of the lowest tuition rate hikes, averaging just three and half percent a year compared to most states that see 10 percent hikes. In 1996, UH watched an immense 50 percent tuition hike translate into a six percent drop in enrollment. A year later, the Hawaii University system raised tuition again, this time by 20 percent—another four percent of students vanished.
Public meetings have already been held at the Hilo and Manoa campuses and will continue at Leeward Community College on Oahu, Kauai Community College and MCC by the end of the month. After the Maui meeting the Board of Regents will make their decision.
Right now anti-hike organizers are trying to get as many MCC students to the Maui hearing as possible. Their goal is to drive home the point that the whole concept of gradual tuition increases—as described by the Hawaii University system—is to be “fairer to a greater number of students.”
As the theory goes, development of our colleges will benefit everyone. But increases that nearly double the cost of getting an education may leave many students with a diminished quality of life or worse, simply unable to afford college.
That’s why we won’t be giving it a rest anytime soon.