Seton Hall students began circulating a new petition on Tuesday calling for a tuition freeze for the 2020-2021 academic year following a June 11 announcement that the university will raise tuition by 3.5% and room and board by 3%. As of press time, the petition has garnered over 1,700 signatures on change.org.
“We understand Seton Hall has also faced a loss during this time, but as students, many of us are unsure if we will be able to return in the Fall,” the petition says. “The university prides itself on being an affordable private school, but our experience is becoming more of a business relationship than an earned educational opportunity.”
The petition was posted by senior marketing major Mariam Elmiligi, who argued that the University should not be raising tuition while educational quality decreases due to COVID-19 guidelines.
“I believe that our campus activities and services will already lack quality in comparison to other years due to adhering to COVID-19 guidelines,” Elmiligi said. “We understand Seton Hall faced losses as well, but the students should not be responsible to make up for these losses out of their own pocket. Many of us will have to take out loans, and some may even need to transfer, drop out, or take a gap year due to their current financial status.”
Elmiligi also said that lack of transparency around costs, as well as the timing of University construction projects demonstrate the issues with the tuition increase, such as the planned improvements to the Richie Regan Athletic Center.
“We should not be wondering where our 3.5% tuition increase and 3% room and board increase is going, especially when we find out that there are renovations being made to the Richie Regan Athletic Center,” Elmiligi said. “Students are left in the dark with the services that will even be offered next semester but are still expected to pay for it.”
The planned improvement to the Athletic Center will add a new basketball practice facility, which includes a full practice court, a weight training room, conference rooms, lounges, and other amenities, according to a May 29 bond filing from the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority (NJEFA).
The NJEFA filing also outlines the University’s plans to renovate the University Center and South Boland Hall as well as add a new residence hall in the place of Turrell Manor.
“While renovations to the Richie Regan Athletic Center, Boland Hall, and the University Center may be appreciated in the future, the purchase of a revenue bond of up to $140 million should not be a university priority during this crisis,” the petition says.
Senior finance and IT major Téa Scott, who assisted in writing the petition, said she also takes issue with the timing of the tuition increase.
“I strongly believe that a college education should be affordable to every individual,” Scott said. “I do not agree with a tuition increase during a pandemic where many students and their families are suffering financial hardship.”
According to an email from the office of University President Dr. Joseph Nyre on June 11, the university will still sustain millions in financial losses this academic year despite the tuition increase.
“Great care was taken to balance the outstanding Seton Hall education we all expect with the financial impact on students, their families and our employees,” the email from Nyre’s office said of the losses. “Accordingly, our Regents had the foresight to recognize that reducing spending by another $8-12 million in a single year would be dangerously unhealthy for Seton Hall in the long term.”
Other universities in New Jersey have promised not to raise tuition in the face of losses due to coronavirus.
Rowan University, which is facing losses similar to Seton Hall’s $33.2 million, announced a tuition freeze to its 19,000 students on May 1.
“Although the University faces a loss of $33 million in revenue this year because of the fallout related to COVID-19, we will not make up any portion of the difference by further burdening our students,” Rowan University President Ali Houshmand said in his announcement.
Rutgers University also announced a tuition freeze on April 24.
“Although much remains to be determined about the coming budget year, one thing is certain — we cannot and will not close this gap on the backs of our students and their families.” Rutgers University President Robert Barchi said.
In the announcement of the 2020-2021 budget, Vice President of Student Services Dr. Shawna Cooper-Gibson wrote that Seton Hall will continue to provide a lower-cost education than its ‘peer schools.’
“Although unsure which schools necessarily qualify as Seton Hall’s peer schools, DePaul University, another private Catholic institution in the Big East Conference, decided to freeze the tuition for the upcoming academic year,” says the petition in response.
The tuition hike will bring the total cost of tuition and fees for a full time student at the University to $45,290 per year, up from $43,780 last year. The 3.5% increase marks the lowest tuition increase Seton Hall students have seen in nearly 2 years by nearly half a percent.
Daniel O’Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor.