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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Students look to find itemized cost of college attendance

Mercy Egbuikwem works in the Center for Community Service. Photo courtesy Mercy Egbuikwem

When Mercy Egbuikwem made the decision to come to Marquette, she was immediately drawn to the sense of community. 

While traveling from Nigeria to Milwaukee for the first time, Egbuikwem’s flight was delayed at the O’Hare International Airport. She told her graduate assistantship supervisor, who then made the hour and a half drive out to pick Egbuikwem up and ensure she made it to campus. 

Egbuikwem chose to live in Mashuda Hall, the only dorm at Marquette that offers grad student housing, as it was the most reasonable price at around $350 a month. Everything seemed to be going well and August 2022 marked the beginning of her graduate journey at Marquette.

“When I was preparing to come, they had to send a flier about the housing here, and that Mashuda is the housing for grad students,” Egbuikwem said. “I was already thinking, ‘Wow, $350, I can stay here until the end of my program.’” 

After living in Mashuda for several months, Egbuikwem received a notice that she would no longer be able to live in the dorm next year, as the space was needed for incoming first-years. She said that the information was a surprise and didn’t make much sense. 

“Most grad students in Mashuda are international students and when that information came in, some of us were just confused. I’m still confused right now,” Egbuikwem said. “You don’t push people out like that without giving them better options of where to stay. That’s just too much to worry about.”

Egbuikwem said that when talking to other students, they were also concerned about meeting payments and living arrangements. 

“A student came to me and was like, ‘Mercy, have you found where you’ll live next year?’ I said no and he said he doesn’t really want to think about it because he has all his classwork to think about. He can’t be thinking about where to stay and be worried about that,” Egbuikwem said. 

When Marquette initially gave Egbuikwem an estimate for costs, she said that looking back she was unaware of how much these costs would fluctuate. 

Along with the uncertainty surrounding housing, other costs soon began to pile up. Egbuikwem was required to pay semesterly insurance to Marquette due to her international student status, something that can cost over $1,000. The insurance also didn’t cover everything that Egbuikwem needed, as she experienced some issues with her eyes and contacted the university clinic but was told that her insurance doesn’t cover eye-related problems. 

“There’s an increase in the cost of credit now, and it is so unimaginable why there should be a change in tuition cost in such a manner. I discovered recently that the cost of credit has increased, and I don’t know how low-income students can navigate this,” Egbuikwem said.

Graduate students work 20 hours for the university in exchange for free or reduced tuition prices. However, graduate students who are American citizens have the choice to work more outside of the 20 hours if they want or need to. International students such as Egbuikwem are not granted that opportunity due to immigration laws and visa status. 

With insurance, tuition and now an apartment that Egbuikwem said may cost double what she paid for Mashuda, Egbuikwem said that making ends meet will be challenging for the next academic year. 

Egbuikwem is not the only student who has been affected by the changing costs at Marquette.

Just last November, Marquette University’s Board of Trustees approved a 4% increase in undergraduate tuition for the 2023-2024 school year. This will increase the undergraduate tuition rate from $45,860 to over $47,000. Less than a month after this announcement, an article was published about a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, stating that only 9% of institutions accurately reported tuition costs to students. 

Because of this, the GAO recommended that Congress pass a law to force higher institutions to meet certain criteria and include specific information in offers for financial aid. As of now, no law has been passed to combat this issue. Instead, more information on the 2022 GAO report has come to light, as an April 4 statement from the GAO said that there are attainable ways for colleges to report net prices, but they are simply not being met as there are no legalities holding these colleges accountable. 

Susan Teerink, associate vice provost for financial aid and enrollment services at Marquette, said that it is hard to predict what any particular student will pay for tuition because financial aid and scholarships are so individualized. 

“When a student receives a financial aid offer, it is broken out by tuition, fees and then housing and meals if a student is planning to live on campus,” Teerink said. “And then from that total grants and scholarships are subtracted off from that, so somebody can see what they might owe after any free money they might receive, and then it provides the option to consider loans.” 

One concern brought forth with the GAO report was that 50% of the colleges investigated understate the net price to students. This means that when they provide the cost of attendance, they leave out various factors such as living expenses, or fail to factor in loans. Teerink said that Marquette counters this by showing the cost at each step of the process.

“We do provide the direct cost of Marquette, minus any free money, which is grants and scholarships, and then we show it again. Here’s what you would owe, here’s your free money and again do the math, and then if you decide to take loans here’s what your bottom line would be if you choose to take loans,” Teerink said. 

While half of the colleges are understating costs, 41% of colleges do not provide an estimate at all. The last 9% are the only schools that fall into the “best practice” category, where they are the clearest and most concise when reporting costs, leaving out only grants and scholarships. Teerink said that having a place on campus like Marquette Central to help reach out to families and explain costs and work through barriers has been very beneficial. Marquette Central is a building located on Marquette’s campus that combines several financial-based offices into one area.

“We try very hard to be as clear and concise as we can be for families. That’s one of the benefits of having a unit like Marquette Central. Often, particularly in the spring, when prospective students are making their decision to come to Marquette, there are many phone calls every single day with families stepping them through so that they understand exactly what they will owe to the university,” Teerink said. 

Although Marquette provides costs of attendance broken down into tuition, housing, food, books, student fees, personal and transportation, other schools are going further in order to be wholly transparent with their students. A report from uAspire, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing students with financial information, suggests that schools should further itemize these lists, even to include smaller items such as laptops.

Although there are cost differences between public and private universities, there does not appear to be a specific discrepancy when comparing the two. Melissa Emrey-Arras, director of education, workforce and income security at GAO, said that schools across the board struggle with this.

“We found that the vast majority of colleges were not following best practices for presenting key information in their aid offers. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that this is a problem at colleges across the board,” Emrey-Arras said. 

Egbuikwem also said that, despite the rising costs, she still loves the staff, faculty and overall sense of community at Marquette and hopes that Marquette will take the opportunity to grow.

“Since the cost of the meal plan has increased also, the dining hall should ensure inclusivity of food. Some international students may not find the type of food they like at the dining hall. So they should put that into consideration as the cost is increasing, for the betterment of international students,” said Egbuikwem.

This story was written by Briana Nelson. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Briana Nelson
Briana Nelson, Copy Editor
Briana is a Copy Editor at the Wire. She is a junior from Colorado Springs, CO studying psychology and journalism. In her free time, Briana enjoys hiking, spending time with her dog and reading. This year Briana is looking forward to learning more about editing and getting to know other staff members at the Wire.

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