Rant & Rave

Tuesday, February 3, 1998

High costs threaten
the university

By Aned Muñiz

WHILE education elsewhere is given the preferential treatment it deserves, here in Hawaii it is not accorded any priority status or respect.

Plagued by soaring tuition and declining quality, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is seriously threatened, and with it, Hawaii's academic, intellectual and even cultural future.

This is, of course, symptomatic of a larger trend: statewide deterioration of the quality of public education. Meanwhile, "pro-education" bureaucrats talk, year after year, about improving the quality of all levels of education, with no apparent results.

The UH, deemed "a bargain" by national publications and those seeking to justify tuition increases, is still out of financial reach for many. In past years, enrollment has dropped and many full-time students have switched to part-time status so they can get jobs to pay for that status.

Undergraduate tuition and fees for Hawaii residents total $1,474.70 for the spring semester, and a whopping $4,714.70 for non-residents. This is less than other state universities such as UCLA, where tuition is $1,386 per quarter or $4,050 for the year. But in Puerto Rico, where I come from, the University of Puerto Rico charges $32 per credit. A student carrying 12 credits would pay $384 a semester.

While many countries with the highest quality of life -- such as Germany, Austria and Sweden --pride themselves in providing higher education at no cost to qualified and willing students, the land of capitalism sacrifices talent and hopes for the sake of profit. Frankly, American universities have become more big business than institutions of higher education.

IN addition to the cost of tuition, students who need to live away from home in order to be closer to the University of Hawaii campus face the burden of overpriced and often inadequate living conditions. Those who try their luck off campus consider themselves fortunate to secure lodgings in a Palolo or Manoa home at $400 monthly.

University Student Housing, at approximately $1,100 per semester, has its own drawbacks. Students are forced to vacate their rooms during Christmas and spring break, which proves difficult for out-of-state students who typically have no other place to go.

Participation in a costly meal plan is mandatory for all who live on campus, save the few who reside in the campus apartment complex.

The idea that students are forced to support Marriott's empire or face eviction is outrageous and the situation worsens once you actually sit to dine at the Hale Aloha Cafeteria (which every student does after paying an average of $6 to $7 per meal up front). This semester, meal plan prices range from $631 to $1,030, raising the cost of living on campus to a minimum of $1,800 per semester.

For students on their own and without financial aid, meeting these costs on wages from one or two part-time jobs is a struggle.

Even if your family lives in Hawaii and you have the option of commuting to campus, the system gets you by demanding $3 each time you wish to park your car on campus, or by making you pay an exorbitant amount for a semester parking pass.

Everybody holds differing views on what the roles and functions of government should be, but most of us agree that education should rank high as a priority of any social system's agenda.

No talented prospect should be denied higher education due to financial inadequacy. Education is a right, not a privilege.

Aned Muñiz is 23 and a graduate student in
European languages and literature at the
University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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