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30% of Latinos are unable to afford food. PA Universities increase tuition and meal plans affecting Latinx students' ability to pursue higher education degree. Photo: PCH-Vector / Getty

Hispanic college enrollment reaches new high, but affordability remains an obstacle in Pennsylvania

Inflation has caused several universities in Pennsylvania to increase tuition prices, making it more difficult for Latinx to receive a higher education degree.

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Hispanic college enrollment reaches a new high. According to a recent study, postsecondary institutions have seen an increase “even during the first year of the pandemic, increasing by about 140,000 students, or 6%, from 2019 to 2020.” 

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) reported an increase of 13.3% during the spring of 2022, with Excelencia in Education projecting a 15% increase in Hispanic enrollment from 2020 to 2029.

Although there is an exponential increase in Latinos enrolling in higher education institutions, Excelencia in Education states “Pennsylvania lags in Latinos’ degree completion and overall degree attainment.”

Sarita Brown, Excelencia in Education Co-founder and President, said, “Just like our network of Presidents for Latino Student Success, we keep moving forward as we cope with the pandemic and focus on student success. Our work continues because this is the time to strive for equity. We will ensure America’s future with the talent and energies of Latino college graduates.”

The gap in educational attainment between Hispanic and white, non-Hispanic adults is 22% difference—significantly demonstrating the equity gaps that persist hindering Latino students’ ability to graduate.

The financial constraints Hispanics face make it impossible to finish a four-year degree—seven out of ten Latinos (71%) site needing to work to help support their family as the reason for not attaining a bachelor’s degree, while 69% are unable to afford a four-year degree. 

At the present time, inflation poses a serious threat to low-income minority families’ livelihood and their ability to support their children to pursue  a higher education degree.

“The serious problem of inflation is impacting Black families more than many other Americans. Millions of minority households across the nation are facing distinct, serious financial problems during this period, including many who are being threatened with eviction and face unsafe conditions in their neighborhoods, with few options to help,” said Robert J. Blendon, co-director of the survey Personal Experiences of U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minorities in Today’s Difficult Times and Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis Emeritus at Harvard Chan School.

Additionally, finding Hispanic/Latino community more likely than whites to report serious financial problems (48%), with many not having an emergency savings to cover a month of expenses (53%), with 30% struggling to afford food, and 26% serious problems affording their mortgage or rent. 

Inflation pressures Pennsylvania Universities to increase tuition

According to The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation increased by 8.2% by September, affecting household spending and affordability. As a result, college students are not exempt from being affected by rising prices of everyday essentials, causing colleges to take into account these factors when determining tuition costs and meal plans. 

Several higher education institutions in Pennsylvania have increased tuition. Penn State University announced in March a 2.9% tuition increase approved by the Board of Trustees for 2022-2023 fiscal year, including a $288 million undergraduate financial aid budget. 

“It was important to us that we continue to keep cost increases low while simultaneously bolstering our grant-based undergraduate financial aid program,” said Senior Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli in a statement. “This year, our aid budget is growing at a rate triple that of charges, ensuring that we are able to fulfill our commitment to meet a student’s demonstrated need each year, even as costs increase.”

Although Penn is committed to meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated need with grant-based aid, “it is unable to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students,”says PennState in its Student Aid section.

However, Penn is not the only university increasing tuition rate— Villanova University stated that given the “significant inflation present in the U.S. economy,” there will be a 4.25% increase in tuition.

The increase prompted students and faculty to complain that the services and amenities offered by the institution “fail to justify the school’s current tuition, let alone an increase,” as reported by The Villanovan

“Our tuition increase we announced for next year was slightly higher than what we averaged in previous years, [the previous average being 3.7%],” Neil Horgan, the Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer said. “Although the tuition increase was a little bit higher this year, we always do everything we can to minimize the increases in tuition.” 

Villanova created a “Strategic Plan”to provide details on how the funds will be used—“enhancement of academic facilities and scholarly resources, including classrooms, laboratories and libraries,” to help improve the building conditions.

Horgan also added that the University purchases increased “affecting the ability of the University to keep tuition the same price.” 

According to Yiming Ma, inflation has decreased but price levels increased, with food or grocery prices increasing 13% in September— butter and margarine increased by 32.2%, eggs 30.5%, and flour 24.2%. 

College students on a meal plan have also been affected by inflation with tuition increases.

Temple University Board of Trustees approved a 3.9% increase for both in-state and out-of-state. 

“Raising tuition is not a decision that we came to lightly as we recognize the impact it has on students and families,” said Ken Kaiser, chief operating officer of Temple University in a statement. “Unfortunately, we are facing near-unprecedented inflationary pressures, and these pressures are compounded with the state appropriation remaining flat for what has now been four consecutive years. When you couple that with the increasing costs of education, we concluded that this tuition increase was necessary to ensure that we continue to provide all of our students with the high-quality, student-centered education that has always defined this institution.”

Notably during the Covid-19 pandemic, Temple University Board of Trustees approved tuition freeze, at the time, in-state tuition was $16,080, and out-of-state undergraduate tuition $28,992. Also, approving tuition freeze for the James E. Beasley School of Law, Lewis Katz School of Medicine and the School of Pediatric Medicine. 

For 2021-2022, Temple increased tuition by 2.5% and cut its budget by 3%. “We’re aware that this is still a financially difficult time for students and families, so we’ve worked to strike the balance between a slight tuition increase and a slight budget cut. That helps us ensure that we do not harm students’ educational experience here at Temple. That’s especially important this year as we expect campus to regain the vibrancy it was known for prior to the pandemic,” Ken Kaiser, vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer at the university said.

The increasing tuition prices and inflation undoubtedly challenge Latinx students’ ability to afford a higher education degree. 

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