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Robert Morris University’s initiative to make graduate school affordable

Increasing afordability for Illinois students

Zyria Goldsmith felt her surprise instantly turn into excitement. The first-year graduate student at Robert Morris University Illinois’ (RMU) Chicago campus heard an announcement that would seriously improve her life.

RMU President Mablene Krueger announced a 30 percent reduction in graduate tuition as part of the university’s Speed Ahead tuition reduction program.

“I instantly felt a boulder lift from my shoulders,” Goldsmith said.

Zyria Goldsmith

A cheerleading scholarship and on-campus job cover a portion of Goldsmith’s tuition. She planned to pay the remaining balance with student loans.

Goldsmith wasn’t the only one celebrating. Many students on campus were cheering with excitement when they heard the announcement in their classes.

“Our entire class jumped up for joy and started screaming in excitement,” RMU student, Lav Patel, said in a recent interview. “When you hear that number, all the opportunities pop up in your head.”

Millions of Americans in similar positions as Goldsmith and Patel rely on student loans to cover tuition. Recent reports show Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt. Approximately 40 percent is from financing graduate and professional degrees.

Goldsmith enrolled in RMU immediately after graduating from Thornton Fractional South in Lansing, Illinois. Though she is the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, the importance of higher education was always emphasized.

“As an aspiring CPA, I know a graduate degree is essential to career advancement,” Goldsmith said. “I thought graduating with burdensome debt was an inevitable part of the process.”

When Goldsmith first looked into higher education, the numbers seemed stacked against her. Illinois has the fifth highest tuition in the U.S. for public universities–it’s no wonder it’s also the number two exporter of college students. Students simply cannot afford to foot the costs.

President Krueger says that was part of the inspiration for the tuition reduction.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that cost for college should only be a consideration, not a crippling factor,” President Krueger said when asked about the significance of the monumental move, which is a first of its kind for graduate tuition at RMU.

The Speed Ahead program will be available to students across RMU’s seven campuses starting February 2019.

Existing and incoming students will save an estimated $1.3 million in tuition during the 2019-2020 school year. For example, an incoming MBA graduate student will save $14,000 during the course of their graduate degree.

“This is exciting because you don’t typically see initiatives take place like this at the graduate level in higher education,” RMU’s Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Kayed Akkawi said. “This proves RMU’s commitment to instilling next-level readiness for its graduate students.”

Dr. Akkawi also referred to the graduate tuition reduction as a “big win for higher education” and rightfully so. It is a solution that can help uplift the entire Chicago community and state as a whole. In fact, it demands for more Illinois universities to follow suit as the need for affordable higher education in our area is so dire.

“Now, instead of accruing debt, I can begin saving to purchase a new home. I didn’t think I  would be able to do that until after I graduated,” Goldsmith said.

To learn more about RMU’s Morris Graduate School and the Speed Ahead graduate tuition reduction program, visit speedahead.robertmorris.edu.



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