NAU is working to decrease the cost of tuition and keep college as affordable as possible by collaborating with students to determine price increases on campus. The efforts are in accordance with Article 11 of the Arizona Constitution which states that tuition should be kept at a low cost so education is accessible to as many students as possible.
Data on tuition costs show a previous 2-1 ratio in favor of the state’s university funding versus what students paid to attend. In 2017, the ratio reversed and the state paid less than half of what students paid.
The university has put a cap on tuition increases. For the next six years, students will not see more than a 3% tuition increase.
Those who enrolled during the time of the tuition pledge program specifically will not see an increase. The program, which had its last run this academic year, guaranteed enrolled students would not see a tuition increase during their first four years as an undergraduate. If first-time students enroll at NAU for fall 2023, they will not receive the tuition lock.
In place of the pledge program, the Access2Excellence program will start in the fall and guarantee free college for any students who come from a household with a combined income of $65,000 or less a year.
Senior and Student Body President Brendan Trachsel advocates for students when NAU determines the rate of housing, dining, tuition and fees. Public universities communicate with the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) to determine what students pay for the school year.
“I believe with my heart [NAU] is doing the best they can to reduce costs for students, but the fact of the matter is they are working within a greater system that just isn’t working for them,” Trachsel said. “So, until we see expanded significant state support, we aren’t going to see lower tuition for students.”
Tuition increases are primarily used to fund education and staffing.
“The increases that are being brought to students are simply paying for the bottom line,” Trachsel said. “We are not funding the wildest dreams of the university administration. We are paying for our education and the resources we get.”
Amanda Cornelius is associate vice president of enrollment management at NAU. She oversees the Office of Financial Aid, Enrollment Management Communications and the Jacks on Track Program.
Cornelius said NAU uses a lot of money to invest in employment, with approximately 60% of its expenses going toward staff. In January, faculty and staff received a 4.5% salary increase, which cost $14.5 million in recurring expenditures.
NAU offers a number of scholarships and has low student loan debt averages. Cornelius said she has seen the number of scholarships increase every year regardless of tuition increases. These scholarship opportunities come from new scholarship donors, along with new community organizations.
“In the 2021-22 academic year, we disbursed over $20 million in scholarships, up over $400,000 from the previous year,” Cornelius said. “This does not include tuition waivers.”
Ninety-five percent of first-year students at NAU receive financial aid, leaving 5% of students to pay for college on their own, according to an NAU paying-for-college flyer.
“Each institution has its own needs and goals, but I think NAU does a great job of keeping tuition as affordable as possible,” Cornelius said. “During the pandemic, tuition was not increased for three consecutive years. Any proposed increases are discussed and carefully weighed to best suit the needs of students, faculty and staff — the whole NAU community.”
Students can see what scholarships they are eligible for, how much federal aid they may receive and the number of federal loans they can take out by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The promise of lowering the cost of education means nothing when it doesn't come to fruition. Even more so when the lines between students that are/aren't financially needy are so adamantly drawn that nothing else is taken into consideration.
Financially speaking I am considered rich, not because I am but because I don't fit into the Access2Education boundaries. It doesn't matter if your household makes $67,000 or $167,000 per year you are rich and, like me, won't receive substantial financial aid. That's just numbers mind you, something easily influenced by where you live, higher cost of living usually means higher pay, so you may live poor but still be too rich.
Taking into account some people's reasons for college makes things even harder. I wanted to attend NAU to get out of a bad home situation and made my intentions known to NAU, but because my household is too rich everything about me is skewed and I look financially capable of paying the $20,000 I need for just 1 year of school.
I can only speak for myself and my experiences with NAU in the past few months but NAU has made it painfully obvious that I don't deserve to go to college.
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