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U.S. should take hint from abroad and lower cost of higher education

Sewanee, a liberal arts college in Tennessee, recently announced that for the 2011-2012 school year, it will cut tuition costs by 10 percent, according to The New York Times. While Sewanee undoubtedly hopes that this will increase applicants and stop the transfer of students to public universities in the state, experts have said Sewanee's decision to cut costs is, at best, a baby step in the right direction.

To say that Seton Hall should simply follow Sewanee's example would dumb down and simplify and extremely complex matter, although it would be nice. However, Sewanee's small concession, as well as Seton Hall and many other college's inability to take such steps, points to a larger and overriding issue facing higher education in the United States.

In the fall semester, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and visited many other areas of Italy and Europe. Many Italians informed me that while higher education is certainly not free in Italy, it is also not nearly as expensive as in the United States. My "intercambio" friends (a gathering of Italian and American students where they each try to teach each other their respective languages), gasped when I said Seton Hall cost me upwards of $20,000 annually. In Sicily, I met a recently-graduated Australian who complained about the amount of school debt he had to pay back, and then explained that it was around 8,000 euros. A German medical student told me that the government funded most of his undergraduate education and he had no school debt, and when I touched down in Ireland I was greeted by newspaper headlines that read "Students protest as university tuition increases to 3,000 euros." Whether that was per semester or annually I am unsure, either way, though, I would have gratefully accepted that bill.

According to a study done in 2009 by the project on student debt, the average student debt in the United States upon college graduation was $23,200. Sewanee's current annual tuition is $46,000, according to the New York Times, which means that a 10 percent cut will result in a yearly price tag of $41,400. Multiply that number by four and a student will still wind up with a college education that costs more than $165,000. Even when one takes into consideration many students don't pay the full sticker price, and many students take longer than four years to graduate, that's still a lot more than $8,000 or even 18,000 euros.

The problem facing Seton Hall students is two-fold then. First, why can't Seton Hall take its own "baby step" by cutting tuition 10 percent? After all, any cut is better than a tuition increase, which is what students faced beginning in summer 2010 at Seton Hall.

According to the Times' article, ("Bucking Trend, College Will Cut Price") Sewanee may have to draw from its $315 million endowment fund to cover any revenue shortfall the price cut may cause. Endowments come from donors, which in the case of colleges, mostly consist of alumni. As reported by The Setonian in April 2010, Seton Hall does not receive as much money from alumni donations as other schools; therefore, one can conclude the school would have a lot less to fall back on should there be a revenue shortfall from a cut in tuition cost.

Secondly, it is not just Seton Hall students that struggle with tuition costs, it's the whole nation. In other countries, government funds higher education to a much greater extent than the United States government does. The theory is that college creates more educated people, and a more educated person is better for the nation on the whole, therefore the opportunity to attend college should be given to everyone. The United States needs to consider this theory and realize that the education of a future generation should be a top priority, and everyone should have the chance to better themselves and their nation through education.

Until then, though, the University should do what it can to provide the best possible education for students at the lowest possible cost.

Caitlin Carroll is a junior journalism major from Mastic Beach, NY. She can be reached at

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