MLIS students were
unpleasantly surprised to find that, at the beginning of Autumn Quarter
2002, a new three-tiered
tuition system was implemented for graduate students. The fact that
tuition was going up was not in itself a surprise. Tuition is skyrocketing
for higher education across the state, and students have come to expect
this as an unfortunate side effect of the slowing economy. What raised
a few eyebrows was the new classification system that divided all graduate
students into three tiers-with students from the Information School
in the most expensive category.
in Nursing now pay lower tuition than masters students in the Information
School. Architecture and Urban Planning masters are paying higher tuition
than Oceanography and Fishing masters. With the exception of the Pharmacy,
Business, Law, Medicine and Dentistry departments, all graduate programs
are now categorized into three tiers and tuition is priced accordingly.
One outcome of
the new tier system is that MLIS students are now saddled with a seemingly
disproportionate financial burden compared to their fellow masters students
in other programs. Another unfortunate outcome of the new system is
that poor and disadvantaged students may be discouraged from applying
to the Information School and other third tier programs.
the Dean of the Information School, played a key role in helping to
determine the School's tuition level. After he consulted with faculty
in order to determine "what seemed reasonable in terms of what
the school is," it became clear that "we belonged in that
top tier of tuition," he said. "We don't want a second class
Information School. We want first class all the way, and that costs
money, and means everybody has to kind of pay their fair share."
influenced the Dean's decision, the main one being that "that's
what it really costs us." Although the building fee varies slightly
from tier to tier, the biggest difference between the tiers is the operating
fee-which includes money for infrastructure, technology, computers,
faculty and staff. Dean Eisenberg pointed out that "we have six
people for student services
five years ago we had zero." Similarly,
five years ago the iSchool had less than 10 faculty and minimal computer
facilities. The Information School's impressive five-year renaissance
has come with an expensive price tag.
that Dean Eisenberg took into consideration is that the top tier is
"close and consistent with what we're going to charge for our
programs." The distance MLIS and the MSIM programs, which are self-supporting
programs offered through the Information School, both cost over $20,000
per degree. Because these programs are not supported by the state, their
tuition is "closer to what programs [actually] cost than any other
tuition," he says.
acknowledged that tuition is partially influenced by expectations that
Information School graduates will earn better-paying salaries than graduates
from other departments. Although he downplayed this factor as being
central to his decision, the Dean said that "some of our students
do really well and there's an increase in the demand for our field.
So it's a bit of what can students expect afterwards [financially].
But it's also what we want students to expect
I would love to see
library grads getting
$50K to $60K [salaries] to start."
In deciding the
appropriate tier for the Information School, Dean Eisenberg looked to
the Engineering Program for comparison. "One of the reasons that
we compare ourselves to engineering
is that our resource infrastructure
is significant," he said. "We don't just need a classroom
and a bunch of students-we need technology, we need the infrastructure."
He felt that it was important to compare the Information School to a
program that is growing and successful, following the adage that "you
tie yourself to winners."
The cost of the
UW MLIS program was also compared to other MLIS programs in the country.
For a degree, "our tuition is below most of our peers," asserted
the Dean. "It is not below North Carolina in-state tuition, but
nobody is. But North Carolina, the state, put billions of dollars into
their higher education system over the last 10 years."
In contrast, the
state of Washington put comparatively little money into funding for
higher education during the last decade. The state's budget crisis and
its effect on higher education was the subject of a recent weeklong
series of editorials that ran in the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer. According to one article, "other states
were just plain smarter about investing in education during the boom
of the '90s
Washington's 2-percent increase in funding per student
between 1992 and 2000 placed it behind 39 other states."
The fact that
the state of Washington is in the bottom quartile of the country right
now in support of higher education worries Dean Eisenberg. Although
he is seeking additional funding from the state in order to increase
enrollment in the Informatics Program, he admits that "right now
it's not so much fighting for new money as it is fighting to hang on
to the money we already have."
For the most part,
though, the Dean feels positive about what the Information School has
accomplished over the last five years and the future of the school.
"We are the buzz of the library and information field right now,"
he said, "because we're pushing the limits of the information school
I feel really good about where we are and what we're doing."