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Transparency and the 30K excuse

In this week’s Student Government elections, two candidates listed SGA transparency as a platform goal. It’s easy to see why. Transparency is the new buzzword. We want to feel connected with where our money is being spent and whether those decisions are going to positively affect us. However, at Concordia, these connections are cloudy at best.

The root of the issue is what I call the 30k excuse. It’s the idea that we’ve invested a large sum of money and feel a sense of ownership in our education– the end result being that we want to know how the money is used. You’ll hear people talk about it all the time:

“I pay $30,000 dollars to go to this school, and (insert complaint here).”

The 30k excuse doesn’t translate perfectly into the real world; there are very few situations where you will pay such a large amount of money to an institution that will so thoroughly influence your day-to-day life. However, the same idea shows up in any large purchase. If you buy a house or car, you expect a full report on what you’re getting for your money. When we plunk down that kind of cash to the school, we view it as a contract between the school and the students, and we expect to have some say in how it’s used (whether this is ever truly carried out is a different matter).

This is why when students receive an email from the president stating that tuition will increase for the next year (making it, specifically, the $37,860 excuse), we expect an explanation. However, this is rarely the case. Instead, we are offered the reassurance that Concordia “will continue to be one of the lowest priced private colleges in the region” and that the increase will “assist us in funding strategic investments in the quality of the academic program, and we will continue to grow our financial aid resources.” Yet, reassuring this is not.

In truth, it’s vaguely worded nonsense to the average student that spurs more fears than anything. I would rather have a breakdown of where the tuition increase stems from than warm, empty platitudes. To an extent, this information is available if you know where to look and who to ask. On a seemingly annual basis, The Concordian will address the increase and try to explain where the majority comes from. Yet year after year, the college presents us with this information, and similar declarations (here’s looking at you, computer science), with little to no context.

It’s unrealistic to expect that students hold the final say over any of the financial decisions the college makes, but as a form of oversight for large decisions (and they seem rare on campus), I can imagine few barometers better than student response. As well as being students, we are also adults, and the withholding of information that seems so commonplace is belittling, and it only conjures up images of secrecy and backroom politics that build distrust between students and the administration of the college. Instead of reserving this information, the college should be aware that we students want to be informed of the reasoning behind these decisions. Just as we are curious about the world we live in, we want to be educated and informed about the decisions that govern Concordia.

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