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Higher (cost) education

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The bad news for Michigan’s college students is that a higher education is costing about 10 percent more this year than it did last year. The good news is those tuition increases haven’t cut into enrollment. In fact, student numbers are actually rising, which is really good news. With the cash-strapped state cutting funding to its colleges and universities, an increase in students — and the corresponding tuition dollars they bring in — is crucial to the maintenance of academic programs.

It seems counterintuitive. Higher tuition, it seems, should translate into lower enrollment as students unable to afford the increased costs opt out.

Officials at several schools asked by News Hits to explain the incongruity were unable to offer any insight. They’re just happy that the math, so far, seems to be working out.

At Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, for example, tuition jumped nearly 12 percent — going from $5,027 to $5,627 — yet enrollment is at a near-record 25,200 students, an increase of 4 percent over the previous year.

“This is critical enrollment growth that can help EMU offset an almost $10 million reduction in state appropriation,” said Courtney McAnuff, vice president for enrollment services. “If there are no additional cuts from the state, we should be able to maintain our programs.”

Although we here at News Hits failed just about every math and economics course ever taken (as well as every class that had a starting time earlier than noon), we’d like to offer as speculation that the horrid state of our economy is responsible not just for the funding decreases, but also the enrollment boost. With the job market sucking big time, it may be that the obligation of more student loans is preferable to a future full of burger-flipping. It may also be that the tuition boosts won’t be felt in enrollment figures until next year.

Whatever the reason, more students than ever are feeling the pinch.

“I work two jobs and go to school,” says Wayne State Unversity graphics-design junior Andrea Williams. “My budget has been really tight. I live on the basic necessities, but not going to school is not an option.”

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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