Show Us the Money

Published: February 26, 2009

With the economy struggling, it has become much more difficult to pay for the things we need, including education. Many students rely on loans to finance college, but much of this lending has been halted because the banks do not have the money or confidence to give. The need for access to a solid education is clearly a high priority for the current presidential administration, and the $787 billion stimulus package signed on Feb. 17 devotes about $100 billion to improving the nation’s educational institutions. Of that sum, much money will be given to public schools, but enough money has been added to the Pell Grant to increase the maximum sum per student by $500, as Kathryn Feeney explains in her article, “College Students Benefit from Stimulus.” The federal government made keeping students in college students a priority while drafting this huge bill. Our own university should do the same.

That is not to say that we are looking for full tuition forgiveness, though naturally we would not complain if the university offered. What we want is for students to be able to participate in an open dialogue about finances at Fordham. We would like to know where exactly our tuition money goes, so we can see if there is anywhere we can cut costs.

Are we all experts in university budget planning? Of course not. But we are college students, not first-graders, and we can certainly make a positive contribution to such a process. We know what works at the school and what does not. We know what we need and what we can afford to live without.

The student body has an intimate knowledge of the operation of the university, because not only do we live it every day, but also we pay for it. What Fordham student has not fumed over faulty elevators when considering the size of his or her most recent payment, or recoiled, as Harry Bradford did in the Feb. 12 issue of the Observer, at the sight of new classroom chairs as tuition steadily increases? It is discouraging to see the University invest in superficial improvements such as chairs  while unreliable elevators go ignored.

While University administrators are highly qualified in these matters, a little insight from the student body could not hurt. Students might be willing to scale back spending on clubs or give up an expensive cafeteria offering in order to put some money into a scholarship fund. By collaborating with administrators, students may even be able to help find ways to prevent tuition increases for at least a year in order to give Fordham’s hardworking students a bit of financial relief. Administrators should look at every possible way to reduce the burden on students, including offering students more information and an opportunity to help determine how their money is spent. The federal government may help, but it is ultimately up to Fordham to take care of its own community.