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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Students present demands on tuition, financial aid in rally

Protest leaders deliver a list of demands to President Monaco's Chief of Staff, Michael Baenen during a protest against this year's 3.6 percent tuition increase outside Ballou Hall, the Tufts central administration building on Wednesday, May 4.

About 70 students gathered on the lower patio of Mayer Campus Center on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 4, as part of an organized rally to protest the raise of tuition expenses for the 2016-2017 academic year. The tuition increases were initially announced in an April 12 email from James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Jianmin Qu, dean of the School of Engineering.

Rally organizers Parker Breza, Benya Kraus and Anna Del Castillo, a rising sophomore, rising junior and rising junior respectively,  initiated the protest by expressing their disapproval of the tuition increase, a perspective they voiced earlier alongside other Tufts Community Union (TCU) senators through an April 25 op-ed piece in the Daily, which projected that a continued increase of 3.6 percent per year would lead to a $73,383 tuition for the 2019-2020 school year.

After their introduction, rising sophomores Dakota LeRoy and TCU Senator Charlie Zhen spoke about different aspects of their lives that will be impacted by the tuition hike. LeRoy discussed the negative impact of the raise on the socioeconomic diversity of the university, while Zhen explained that the university's inaccessibility with regard to financial aid reflects a perceived lack of care about its students.

Following these speeches, the protesters then began to march to the upper patio of the Campus Center, along Professors Row and up the President's Lawn, until they stopped outside of Ballou Hall, equipped with signs reading phrases such as “I’m more than my FAFSA,” “This tuition is wack” and “Do better.”

During the rally, rising sophomore Nick Cunetta told the Daily that he joined the protesters to express his disapproval over the planned tuition increase.

“I am appalled at the recent increases in tuition, and when I think about it, I think about trying to quantify how great Tufts is and trying to find a way to rationalize why I’m spending three times as much money here as I would at a public university,” Cunetta said.

Rising sophomore Celia Karpatkin expressed concerns over her family's ability to keep up with the university's tuition increases.

“Tufts doesn’t recognize the need that my family has, and I’m not sure I can continue to go to this university if they continue to raise prices, and I have a lot of friends who are in similar positions or worse positions than me," Karpatkin said. "This is not the way Tufts should treat its students.”

Right outside of Ballou Hall, the group chanted, “you raised our tuition; now it’s time to listen,” and moved on to read a list of demands, which included calling on the administration to provide a clear justification of the raises and its specific line items, increase transparency in financial aid calculation, move to need-blind admission, freeze tuition for each graduating class, increase support from the financial aid office and provide a public explanation of the rationale for any noncompliance with any of these stipulations. These demands were first made in the April 25 Daily op-ed, "An open letter to President Monaco and the Board of Trustees,"submitted by the group of TCU senators.

In an interview with the Daily, Kraus, a rising junior, explained the purpose for the protesters' demands.

“I think the overall mission of all these demands is to express our frustration with the current system of higher education as it is, and Tufts is a part of that, but we are not alone," she said. "There are movements happening all over the nation of students saying this is unacceptable."

Kraus further described what she saw as the role of the university in promoting education.

“[The university] needs to foster a community that cares about our learning, and as these demands show and the student narratives we heard, when we keep on seeing these unexplained tuition increases and lack of transparency when it comes to financial matters, that really undermines the sense of community,” Kraus said.

Following the reading of the demands, the protesters then marched in a circle around Ballou Hall, repeating some of their earlier chants along with new ones such as, “the people, united, will never be defeated” and “stop this exploitation, respect our right to education.”

2016-05-04-Somerville/Medford-MA-Tufts University-Tufts students rally to protest planned tuition hikes and to demand clarity on university expenses (Alex Knapp / The Tufts Daily). (Alex Knapp) Tufts students rally to protest planned tuition hikes and to demand clarity on university expenses. (Alex Knapp / The Tufts Daily)

After chanting, “we see, we see our tuition soar, we demand that you come out the door” for several minutes, University President Anthony Monaco’s Chief of Staff, Michael Baener exited Ballou Hall to speak with Kraus and BrezaBaener told them that Monaco had read their list of demands and will make a response, but there was no set timeline for the release of the response, and it would be in an undisclosed manner. Once Baener went back inside, Breza and Kraus explained that this answer was not satisfactory.

Monaco authored a response to the senators' open letter and list of demands in a May 6 op-ed in the Daily, in which he cited unique aspects of the Tufts experience such as small class sizes and a plethora of extracurricular opportunities as propellors of tuition hikes.

"The costs of delivering this experience continue to rise," he wrote. "Expenses to recruit and retain excellent faculty and to maintain and improve our facilities are increasing," he added, noting that $122.8 million of the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering's $355 million of expenses for last year went to instruction fees.

In an interview with the DailyMonaco explained that the increasing cost of keeping strong faculty members is the main reason for the increase in tuition cost.

"The cost of running the university, a large part of it, is salaries, and on average, we have to raise salaries every year somewhere in the 2.5 to 3 percent level, so you can see already, that the 3.6 percent increase, a large part of it is just covering the annual increase in salaries," he said.

Monaco emphasized that financial aid is being raised at a much higher rate than tuition is increasing. While he agreed that costs are getting high, he noted that this increased cost must be balanced with an understanding of the role of financial aid in the overall picture.

"If you think about the net increase, that is, subtract the financial aid from [tuition], and that’s actually the true increase in the amount of money that’s coming into the university’s tuition, and that has gone up at a much lower level than the average of the full price," he said.

Moving forward, Breza explained that he hopes to discuss these concerns with Monaco and other administrators, including Dean Glaser and Dean Qu, as well as with the Financial Aid Office and other offices that work to create the budget. He and four other students met with Monaco on May 12 to discuss students demands and to brainstorm solutions relating to tuition and financial transparency.

Luis Del Rosario, a rising junior TCU Senator who co-authored the April 25 op-ed, emphasized that the rally to protest tuition increases is not the end of the activist efforts.

“This happened [on Wednesday], but there will be more actions if they’re needed, and there will be people there, despite how many finals they have," he said. "There will be people over the summer, there will be people around the area, so as it is necessary, people will show up to action.”

Jake Taber contributed to reporting on this article.