Royal Oak native Kristen Schoettle considers herself fortunate: her parents prepaid her tuition years ago through the Michigan Education Trust. Working fifteen hours a week in the South Quad cafeteria, the LS&A senior has had to borrow less than $15,000. Like Cooper Stansbury, she empathizes with those more indebted. It's getting so "only the wealthy" can afford Michigan, she says. "Especially the people from out of state. It seems kind of like a class divide."
The U-M is extremely sensitive to charges that it is becoming a bastion for upper-class students. "We have done everything possible to keep access for all students," President Mary Sue Coleman told the Detroit Free Press last November, in an article headlined "For many middle-income families, elite colleges are no longer within reach." Challenged on its rising tuition, Michigan offers two major lines of defense. The first is quality: defining its competitors as the Ivies and other top public schools like Virginia and Berkeley, Michigan has always insisted in-state residents are getting a bargain, and many would agree. U.S. News and World Report--the dreaded scorekeeper of the college ratings game--recently put Michigan fourth in a list of the twenty top public universities.