The university didn’t pick a great time to raise tuition. A hurting economy paired with a $787 per credit hour price tag doesn’t leave a line of college-prepped students waiting at the door. It actually leaves fewer than 900 students wanting in, which doesn’t meet the university’s recruiting goal.
It is easy to get trapped in what has been dubbed the ACU bubble. Life on campus sometimes feels detached from the rest of the world. Students, faculty and staff create their own social hierarchy, meal plans and student accounts create a currency that can only be spent on campus and the campus store allows for the purchase of any necessities.
However, tuition increases, low enrollment, and budget cuts are forcing ACU students to realize that our university is not the hermetically sealed environment that it seems.
With less tuition money coming in than what was expected, the loss of the $700,000 Texas Equalization Grant and the still-feeble economy, the university has implemented significant budget cuts. And those cuts affect everyone on campus.
Class sizes are growing – especially in general education, and class selection is taking a hit. Department chairs have become more strict about the number of students who have to be enrolled in a class for it to make. Departments aren’t offering some specialized classes with only four or five students because the cost of the class isn’t covered by the students in it. Sometimes the effects from this are more severe as students are unable to complete a required class or have to substitute another class in its place.
Every department on campus has had to make cuts in its budget, some up to six percent. Student worker positions are scarcer, making it hard to find work on campus.
The rest of the economy is popping ACU’s bubble, and ACU is experiencing the same trends sweeping through the rest of the country’s universities. Average tuition has roughly tripled since 1980 – at private and public universities – in inflation-adjusted dollars.
We have to remember that it is easy to fall into the mindset that issues affecting the world are not relevant to ACU. It is easy to get consumed within the life of classes, friends and social clubs. These things matter in the moment, but ultimately, ACU is a part of the much larger picture of the nation’s economy.