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Tuition increase causes family tension for some

Westminster College students protest silently on Dec. 6 in response to the announcement of a tuition increase for the next academic year. Neve Lahy, a sophomore studying biology, said their father wants more explanation for the 8.5% increase. (Lewis Westbrook)

Over winter break, students had the opportunity to talk about the tuition increase with their parents and family members. Some families pay or help pay for their student’s tuition and say they share the stress of covering the higher cost.  

Kiernan Jett is a senior studying public health who said her mother would not have been able to afford the increase tuition if Jett was not graduating this semester. 

“My mom is divorced, so she’s on her own,” Jett said. “She’s very grateful that I’m graduating. I think things would become more worrisome and more tight if I had to pay more.” 

Last semester, Westminster College announced there will be an 8.5% tuition increase starting in the Fall 2020 semester. Some students responded to the announcement with concern, with an organized group of students holding a protest last December. 

Jett works as an office assistant on campus and said it would be difficult to cover the increase from her own savings. 

Neve Lahy is a biology major who reports being in a similar situation as Jett. However, as a sophomore, they will have to find a way to pay the increased tuition for another two years. 

“The more tuition increases, the more I am paying out of my own pocket,” they said. “Tuition comes up a lot [in conversation] at my house and it causes a lot of tension between us.” 

Westminster College President Beth Dobkin reads student posters at a tuition protest on Dec. 6, 2019. Some students say their parents will not be able to pay for the higher tuition, leaving them to cover the cost. (Lewis Westbrook)

Lahy said they were nervous to tell their mother about the increase because of the stress it will cause. Lahy also said their father understands why tuition needs to increase but wishes it was a slower transition. 

“My dad is upset because it is really drastic,” Lahy said. “He thinks we need more explanation for why it is happening like this and more tuition relief for students who are already at their max.” 

Although some families think it would have been better to raise tuition gradually over time, Olivia Shively, a junior environmental studies major, said her mom wasn’t sure if an incremental increase would be any easier. 

“My parents pay for the majority of my tuition,” Shively said. “My mom worked three jobs to be able to afford to help. Obviously [my parents] were unhappy that they have to pay more, but they understood that it was coming.”

Shively said her parents were supportive of the student protest. 

“They understood the anger we had for not being communicated with properly,” she said. 

Jett, the senior, attended a briefing held by a student protest group Jan. 14. The group was formerly known as Westmini Students Speak Out and has since become a student union.

At the briefing, the union members briefed students on a recent meeting between the organizers and administration. 

“I find that those meetings are beneficial to help keep the student body involved,” Jett said. “I think it’s good that people are standing up for what they want and what they think is right. It’s nice to see people care.” 

Jett said the meeting showed her that students’ efforts are worthwhile. 

“This fight against tuition has happened before,” she said. “Things have been done in the past that have gotten us further in the right direction, even if it seems like the efforts might have been fruitless. I understand that the tuition increase has been finalized, but there are other goals that the student body can continue to work toward.”

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Gwenna Salazar
Gwenna Salazar is an honors communication student in her final year at Westminster. She is excited to spend another semester as the online and social media manager working alongside a great team. When she isn’t on campus, Gwenna loves critically consuming media, being outside, and snuggling her cat, Bruja. After graduation she hopes to forge a fulfilling career in public relations, leaving time on the side for adventures.

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