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All I want for Christmas is ‘locked-in’ tuition

I will always very vividly remember the events of Christmas 2005.
Like every Christmas for as far back as I can recall, my family did the same things we always did. My younger brothers woke me up at what seemed like 3:30 a.m. to convince me to run to the living room to see what the now-derailed Santa Claus gravy train had left. We went to church, Mom made breakfast and we watched bits and pieces of “A Christmas Story” for about 13 hours. It was all pretty standard.
What made that day memorable, though, was a letter I received in the mail. Obviously the mailman doesn’t deliver on Christmas, so this particular letter had been sitting in our box for a while. I tore into the envelope immediately (come on, it’s always exciting to get a letter).
The contents were written on Bradley University stationery and informed me that because of my updated ACT scores, the original scholarship I was awarded was being upgraded to the next level.
Needless to say, this was great news. I was planning on majoring in engineering at the time (clearly, you see how that worked out), and had narrowed my school choices down to either Marquette University in Milwaukee or Bradley. Both schools were nationally respected engineering schools, roughly the same distance from home and competitively priced. But the letter made my decision easier because an increase in financial aid meant Bradley would knock more off my tuition than Marquette, probably the most appealing attribute a school can boast.
On that day, comprehensive tuition at Bradley was $25,280, which included full-time tuition, mandatory fees and room and board. Today, that number has crept up to $30,164.
I keep checking my mail every day, hoping to see another letter that says my scholarship has again been adjusted to account for the increase, but as the vast majority of you who have similar university scholarships know, that letter still hasn’t shown up.
After a hike of nearly $5,000, the scholarships given out by the university have remained completely unchanged.
I don’t want to sound as if I’m ungrateful for the money I have already received, but after thinking about the situation, I came up with this fact – by the time I graduate next year, the difference in tuition that I will have paid since my freshman year will be enough to completely cancel out one whole year of Bradley’s Presidential Scholarship, which is $8,500.
Many public universities feature a “locked-in” tuition to incoming freshmen, which guarantees they will pay the same price for schooling each year until they graduate. As a private institution, I understand Bradley’s right to charge what it wishes to students, but the fact that it doesn’t adjust its scholarships for the increased tuition seems not only unfair to current students, but to prospective students as well. With admission scholarships becoming essentially less valuable, the reward for a hard-working high school career is diminishing as well.
To be honest, I wouldn’t even care if the scholarship increase is proportional to the increase in tuition. Just give us something that shows you are conscious of the problem, or at least explain why things have remained the way they are.
But let me tell you why even this won’t happen.
From Bradley’s perspective, what’s the point?
By the time freshman year ends, those students that are still here are here to stay. They have made friends, settled in and made it through the process of living away from Mom and Dad for the first time ever. And if students are going to stick around no matter what, then why throw them an extra thousand dollars if you don’t have to?
The only way to battle this idea would be to transfer, and Bradley knows, as well as we do, that isn’t going to happen, at least not on a wide enough scale to make a difference.
The only power students have to even begin to level the playing field comes in the form of the additional money they choose to dish out to Bradley.
Until the university goes out of its way to reward its scholarship-earning students, why should those students go out of their way to dump more money into the school? This can be seen in almost every classroom in that person whose entire wardrobe was purchased at the bookstore, which seems to charge about 900 percent mark-up. I hate to say it, but everyone in your class already knows you go here.
From now on, when you are around campus, please start thinking about what you are spending your money on. Next time you need a sweatshirt, think about to whom you want to give that money. And perhaps most importantly, when you eventually graduate and are called for donations, think about how much you’ve already given.
I doubt this column will change the amount of my scholarship (well, not for the better anyway), but hopefully it will at least encourage you to actively look around and decide if the improvements you have seen since 2005 have been worth the money you have paid for them.
All I know is tuition has increased almost $5,000 since then and there still isn’t 2-ply toilet paper in the dorms.
If we’re not going to get any cash back, then it looks like we have many more changes to make.
D.J. Piehowski is a junior journalism major from Genoa. He is the Scout sports reporter.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to dpiehowski@bradley.edu