On January 21, UWT faculty and students explored the rampant rise in tuition costs at the viewing of Andrew Rossi’s film Ivory Tower. Sponsored by the academic programs American Studies, Education, and UW Tacoma Arts and Lectures, the Carwein auditorium was filled with students and faculty eager to engage in the viewing and subsequent discussion. The film speaks to faculty, parents and of course students who all have a stake in what Ivory Tower reveals. Students in the nation are told that getting a higher education is the only way for the “American Dream.” Yet, no one could have fathomed or told us that the amount of debt we’d be getting ourselves into isn’t for job security, but for a chance at “the American Dream.” Ivory Tower explores this and the question, “is it worth it?”
The movie states that as of 2014, the student loan debt for the country was into one trillion dollars. It was said that the price of college has increased more than the price of food or healthcare over the last 20 years. The higher educational institute has become a business. And when colleges are building state of the art research facilities and luxurious dorms to bring in the consumers (a.k.a students), the price is guaranteed to go up. Which brings back the question, “is it worth it?”
In discussion, when it came to UWT, many student viewers felt tuition wasn’t too high, reasonable actually. And the overall outlook was that we are doing well at UWT cost wise. What was commented on mostly was the student fee for the YMCA and how some students in the discussion found it to be blindsiding. Not much other than that though. But don’t exhale just yet, according to Dr. Ingrid Walker, Associate Professor and major coordinator for American Studies, we will see campus growth. As she states, it’s for two reasons, “One is we need to grow our way out of the deficit,” from budget cuts in years prior and second, “we have a mission to serve the South Sound, and the way we’re going to serve the South Sound is to become big enough to be self-sustaining.” New growth might make you wonder what will happen to our cost. And honestly we can’t know that at the moment.
What I was thinking while watching was “what can we do?” We have become consumers of higher education. Do we just stop buying it? Is that even a realistic option with the weight our society puts on credentials? Or even thinking outside of the students and the institution, looking at it on the state level and how there is no funding, what do we do about that? I can’t say that I know those answers or that I can even fathom the true magnitude of this issue that our society is facing. Ivory Tower posed some similar questions and there are people in the nation looking for solutions, but what about here, now, and at home. Dr. Kären Landenburger, Director of Education and Nursing Professor said in discussion, “Really to me what this is saying to all of us is to really understand your politics and get involved because that is where things are going to change.”
If you haven’t seen Ivory Tower, I recommend it. The sponsors of the viewing gathered two thousand dollars to get this film in our school—for us to be conscious students, to be informed students and most importantly to be actively involved students. Get conscious, get informed, get involved.