The tuition increases the University System of Maryland Board of Regents voted on last week could cause a shift in this university’s racial diversity, according to a study presented at the American Educational Research Association’s April meeting.
The study of 530 institutions from 1998 to 2012, conducted by researchers from New York University and the City University of New York, found that the number of black and Hispanic students on college campuses tends to drop as tuition costs increase.
A $1,000 increase in tuition and fees at an average public four-year institution could result in a 2.5 percent drop in racial and ethnic diversity, according to the study.
“Results from this study highlight the need for education leaders and research to look critically at how the cost of higher education intersects with access for underrepresented populations,” the study states.
Last week, the board voted to raise tuition systemwide by up to 5 percent, translating to a $388 hike for in-state students and a $1,395 increase for out-of-state students at this university. In addition, this university will raise tuition for juniors and seniors in computer science, engineering and business majors.
This differential pricing will begin phasing in for the fall semester. Current juniors will see a $700 tuition increase senior year, while current sophomores will pay an additional $700 junior year and $1,400 senior year. Current freshmen will have $1,400 added to their bill junior year and $2,800 senior year.
Future university students enrolled in these majors will pay $2,800 in tuition increases their junior and senior years.
Students who identified as black or Hispanic constituted 22 percent of the campus population in fall 2014, according to data from the university’s Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Assessment.
The majors affected by differential pricing showed lower levels of diversity. In fall 2014, black and Hispanic students accounted for 18 percent of business majors, 15 percent of computer science majors and 12 percent of engineering majors. These numbers do not include students who identified as foreign or more than one race.
Jazmyn White, president of this university’s Black Student Union, said she was “shocked” by the university system’s announcement. She said she fears these increases could disproportionately affect minority students, who historically have had the most difficulty affording college and succeeding in the majors selected for tuition increases.
“It’s kind of scary to think that now that Maryland is raising the tuition, especially for certain majors, will minority students get the opportunity to pursue something that they’re passionate for?” the senior computer science and economics major said. “Their career for the rest of their life could be determined based on how much money they had or what they could afford at the age of 18.”
Senior accounting and international business major Olasubomi Adesoye, who plans to graduate in spring 2016, said he chose to attend this university over Pennsylvania State University because it was less expensive. He said the additional charge for business majors creates a hardship for his parents.
“It’s kind of unfair now to my parents because now they have to pay a lot more because three years ago, I made the choice to be an accountant,” Adesoye said. “You’re telling people to choose what you want to do for the rest of your life based on how much you had to pay for it.”
Adesoye said the lack of diversity in the business school is “horrendous,” adding that he is one of only three black students in several of his accounting classes.
As a black woman, White said, she is a “double minority” in the computer science field.
“The computer science classes that I’m in, they’re not the most comfortable place for me to be,” she said.
Study co-author Drew Allen, director of the Office of Research, Evaluation and Program Support at the City University of New York, said financial aid is “an incredibly powerful tool for ensuring campus diversity.”
White said the university should increase the number of scholarships, grants and work-study jobs it offers to business, engineering and computer science students to encourage diversity in those fields.
Twenty-five percent of the funds generated from the differential pricing structure will go toward grants and financial aid for low-income students.
University President Wallace Loh said this university has some of the lowest tuition and fees when compared to its peer institutions. Other Big Ten schools have already implemented differential pricing, and it did not impact their total enrollment or enrollment of minority students if money was set aside for financial aid, Loh said.
He said most of the minority students this university attracts are middle-class, and low-income students can be covered with additional financial aid. He said he is “absolutely positive” tuition increases will not affect minority enrollment at this university.
“My point simply is, as a general proposition … when you raise tuition, minority enrollment decreases — maybe that’s true on average nationwide, but it surely does not apply to schools like College Park,” he said.