Monday, April 10, 2006

Tuition Waivers For Some Driving Up The Cost of a UAA Education For Others

In today's Anchorage Daily News (April 10th, 2006), there's an article addressing the rising cost of a college education at the University of Alaska at Anchorage (UAA). One of the factors adding to the rising costs is tuition waivers.

The most logical intent and purpose of tuition waivers is to provide assistance to needy students, so that the next Jonas Salk would not have to work his life undiscovered in some factory somewhere because his family cannot afford to send him to college. Our state and our country are both rich enough to ensure that needy students do not have to be denied a college education solely through lack of funds. However, the tuition waiver program has clearly exceeded its original intent. Here are some additional categories of eligibles:

1). Senior citizens.

2). University of Alaska (UA) employees. This means any employee within the entire UA system.

3). Children of UA employees. This means the child of any UA employee can get a tuition waiver at any UA institution. For example, the child of a UAA employee could get a tuition waiver at UAF, or the Mat-Su Branch, or any other facility within the UA system.

4). Top-ranking students in any Alaska high school.

Tuition waivers for senior citizens make no sense. They are generally not starting new careers. This takes funds and slots away from needy students just entering adulthood or middle-aged people changing careers because of job lay-off. Defenders of the senior citizen tuition waiver claim it's necessary for "personal enrichment" and that they don't take slots away from others. This is technically true, but intellectually dishonest. If the funds and slots were not made available for senior citizens, they could be re-allocated to financially-needy younger students. Furthermore, Anchorage senior citizens have multiple alternative outlets for "personal enrichment". There's the Senior Center, or they can volunteer at the Anchorage School District or various charitable enterprises around town to achieve "personal enrichment".

Tuition waivers for children of UA employees are also an unacceptable luxury. Why should they benefit simply because they are the children of UA employees. These waiver slots can also be reallocated to needy students.

Tuition waivers for UA employees themselves are questionable, but are worth keeping because they can be marketed as part of the compensation package to continue attracting prosepctive employees in the future.

Tuition waivers for top-ranking Alaska high school graduates are defensible because they will encourage more of our kids to go to school here in Alaska rather than Outside.

Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) has proposed HB340, which would create a tuition grant fund based on a 2% income tax surcharge on the oil companies. Had it been in effect last year, it would have garnered $88 million. However, considering the hostile reaction by the oil companies to the two legislative oil tax proposals (see yesterday's blog entry), chances of passing this measure are slim.

Until such time as we are willing to optimally fund a tuition waiver program, tuition waivers should first be directed towards needy students, and then continued for Alaska's top high school graduates and UA employees. Tuition waivers for seniors and the children of UA employees should be suspended (although current recipients should be grandfathered if they are degree-seeking students).

1 comment:

  1. If "needy" Jonas Salk can not afford college, Jonas Salk "needs" to get a loan or earn some type of compensation (scholarship, fellowship, etc).