Tuition Freeze: Making College More Affordable for the Wealthy

Governor O’Malley announced a tuition freeze at state institutions this month. Making college more affordable seems like a good idea. Children of janitors and fast-food workers often have a hard time coming up with tuition payments, even at public institutions. There are a plethora of programs and policies to help low-income families with college costs. Unfortunately, freezing tuition is one of the worst ways.

To see why, ask the standard question: “Who benefits?” The freeze was achieved by increasing funding for colleges, so that they could spend more without increasing tuition. That provides an equal benefit for all students’ families; those with annual incomes of $20,000 get the same benefit as families with incomes of $200,000. If the same increase in funding was instead put into financial aid, lower-income families would get more advantage from it, and higher-income families less advantage.

Instead, a tuition freeze subsidizes both lower income and high-income families. Since college students overall tend to be higher income, the net effect of a tuition freeze is to take money from taxpayers (including, of course, low-income taxpayers) to subsidize high-income families. A tuition freeze, in essence, is blatantly regressive and inequitable. As if to emphasize the tradeoff, the state Board of Public Works voted last week to roll back need-based financial aid programs. Take from the low-income, and give to the upper-income. The low-income citizens are less reliable voters, you know.

So from St. Mary’s County to Allegheny County, middle class and wealthy families cheer. Now they can buy that third car, take that vacation in Puerta Vallarta instead of Orlando, knowing that the taxpayers will pick up even more of little Tiffany’s tuition costs. And when Tiffany completes school and is making a nice six-figure salary as a corporate lawyer, her student loan payments will be easier, too. Remember that when she sues you in twenty years.

The cost of tuition is going up, and the reasonable thing to do is to have the students – the beneficiaries, the ones consuming the service – pay the costs. Isn’t that more fair than having the taxpayers pay for it? In fact, tuition at state schools nationwide is up by an average of 6.4%. But not here. What do you know that hasn’t increased in price at all in the last four years? How about tuition at Maryland state schools. That hasn’t increased at all in the past four years, as the state chose to place the burden on taxpayers instead. The chancellor of the university system had a chuckle at their expense. As the Post reported, “When he discusses the tuition freeze with leaders of other university systems, he said, “Their mouths drop open.”

When the state takes such regressive action, our mouths should drop open, too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Budget and Taxes, Education, Maryland, The War on the Poor

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2 Comments on “Tuition Freeze: Making College More Affordable for the Wealthy”

  1. Will Says:

    In calling this regressive, you are assuming that low income folks pay taxes. While they do pay sales and gas taxes, most to do not pay income tax, only payroll taxes. How can someone be regressed upon when he isn’t paying any income tax?


  2. Zinzindor Says:

    Uhhh, no. In Maryland, everyone pays taxes. According to the state Tax Tables, you owe taxes as long as you make more than$50 per year.

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