Board did not give proper approval to grant reduction

Next year, some Western students might have three tuition increases.

The Board of Regents in February approved a reduction of an alumni grant that enabled children of Western alumni to pay in-state tuition. As a result, 129 students will pay 25 percent more tuition next year. This is on top of this semester’s 11 percent increase and a likely 10 percent increase next fall. If the math’s correct, alumni grant recipients could pay as much as 46 percent more tuition next year.

But the concern isn’t about the increases. Even with such big jumps in tuition, the rate is still comparable to that of in-state or out-of-state tuition at most colleges and universities. And it’s understandable that this reduction was needed to pay for budget cuts. Regardless, the way the board approved this grant is questionable.

First of all, Western made the mistake by not letting those students know that such a grant reduction was coming. No one likes unpleasant surprises, and certainly for students like Carrie Halcomb, a junior from Hernando, Fla., who only found out after receiving a letter a couple of weeks ago, this was an unpleasant surprise.

It is somewhat surprising that Western officials did not allow for more time for discussion of this before it was approved. Last fall, when President Gary Ransdell proposed a mid-year tuition increase to improve “academic quality,” he wrote letters to parents, had meetings with everyone on campus and listened to students, staff and faculty views and concerns for a couple of weeks before the board approved it.

The extra time allowed administrators to explain why the tuition increase was necessary, argue that the rate was still reasonably affordable for most students and create a fund to aid students with great financial need.

Even if students couldn’t do anything to stop the tuition increase, at least they saw it coming and were well-informed about it. Generally, students weren’t happy about it, but at least they were understanding about why this tuition increase was needed.

None of those things happened in this case. True, the former increase affected all 18,000 students while only 129 would be affected by an alumni grant reduction. But that shouldn’t matter. A 25 percent tuition increase, regardless of how many have to pay it, is still a big deal.

Even if it’s for a good reason, it’s not right to spring an increase without any prior warning. Western administrators would be upset, maybe even angry, if the board decided, without warning, to reduce salaries by 25 percent. Of course the board would never do something like that because they know that it would kill morale and maybe prompt some employees to leave.

But in a sense, this is what they have done to these students. The board should know and do know that tuition increases and financial aid reductions are a touchy subject with students. Regardless of the number of people it affects, the board should not make any decision concerning either without giving enough time to talk to the people it will ultimately impact.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 9-member board of student editors.