It’s no secret that the cost of higher education in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is no exception.
According to Business Insider, the average yearly increase in college tuition from 1980 to 2014 grew by roughly 260%. Other consumer goods have only increased by nearly 120%.
So why is this happening? According to UL Lafayette Vice President for Enrollment Management, DeWayne Bowie, the 2008 financial crisis is to blame for the sharp increase in college tuition, as financial assistance from the government has sharply declined since then.
This is largely due to local governments pulling funding from universities. This has forced many public universities to operate like a private institution to make ends meet, Bowie said.
According to CNBC, the Great Recession led to a decrease of public funding for higher education. During that time period, private 4-year colleges had a 26% increase in tuition and fees, while four year public colleges had a 35% increase.
Despite the rising costs of education, student enrollment continues to grow. According to Business Insider, “the more students who want to attend college, the more the cost of college increases, and the more students borrow money.”
An increase of enrollment results in students having to pay for costly expenses such as hiring an administration staff for the institution. However, the lack of government funding places students and their families with the responsibility of paying.
According to Business Insider, funding for universities dropped 23% per student after 2008.
The effect of these tuition hikes have hurt the majority of UL Lafayette students in more ways than one might think.
Many UL Lafayette students come from working-class families, Bowie said, and as a result many students are forced to work 30 plus hours a week in many cases. He said this often results in the students not having the time or energy to succeed in their classes.
Thankfully, the university will be receiving some additional funds to help support their students during the pandemic, Bowie said.
“We just got word that we're going to get another $6 million that we will be distributing real soon to our students that are enrolled this semester,” Bowie said.
According to Bowie, the university is making an effort to lower the cost of their courses and reduce fees, but COVID-19 has made this difficult.
Certain programs, like UL Lafayette athletics, have been largely unprofitable, but were making an effort to become more self-sufficient. However, due to limited capacities, these programs are failing to sustain themselves without financial assistance from the university.
“COVID just changed it all,” Bowie said. “So this year for athletics, as you can imagine this is nationwide, it is shot because they could not have attendance at their sporting events.”
This is all coming at a time where college degrees are becoming increasingly necessary to be successful.
“This is something that I know, and I watched the data all the time. We are dead in the middle of the knowledge economy, which means you got to have some type of credentials beyond a high school degree or diploma, in order to get a job out there,” Bowie said. “What we see is as well, with unemployment and layoffs, when things like that begin to happen, the group that is most impacted the most severely is those without those credentials.”