Student protests high tuition costs by paying in $1 bills

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

The cost of a college education has nearly doubled over the past decade. So, one hard-working student decided to respond with a unique protest by paying for his tuition in $1 bills.

“I had to pull some serious strings to even get everything to pay for my tuition this semester, and I wanted it to feel worthwhile,” Luq Mughal, 21, told the Daily Utah Chronicle. “I decided that ... I would feel a little better if I did it like that.”

Mughal already goes to class 10 hours a day during the week and works 16-hour shifts at the local Home Depot during the weekend. And when it came time to pay for school, he and hundreds of other students waited in line for nearly three hours.

So, he carted in the thousands of $1 bills in a metal carrying case.

“Everyone was peeking over my shoulder when I opened the chest,” he told the student paper.

Mughal insists he wasn’t trying to make life difficult for anyone working in the university billing department. Rather, he wanted to make a point about the ever-increasing price of a college education.

“When you spend cash, you feel every dollar that you hand over to someone else,” Mughal said. “You feel that you’re losing that. If you just swipe your card, it could be 10,000 or 100,000 bucks and you don’t really feel it. When you actually slide over a huge pile of cash, you really feel like you’ve spent that. That’s your money, and you also want to make that worthwhile by doing well in school.”

Technically, he was actually forced to include a few $5 bills because the three local banks he visited all eventually ran out of $1 bills.

The increasing cost of college tuition has slowed in recent years, according to a study by U.S. News & World Report. However, costs still rose 2.9 percent last year as the total amount of outstanding student loans topped $1 trillion. But just two years ago, prices surged 8.5 percent. And in recent years, the growth in college tuition prices has outpaced other industries, including health care, as well as food and housing costs, according to the report. In fact, Forbes reports that student loans are the second-highest form of consumer debt behind only mortgages.

Luckily for Mughal, his tuition costs are only half that of his fellow classmates, thanks to a scholarship he receives because his father works at the university.

"By no means am I the saddest story on campus. There’s a lot of people here just as bad and probably worse," he told the Salt Lake Tribune. "The people making the prices are not actually aware of how hard it is on the students."

Mughal said he wasn't aiming for personal attention but hopes other students will be inspired to pay their tuition in similar fashion next semester — a collective action he hopes will result in a re-evaluation of tuition costs.

“If everyone here brought a chest of money like this, I’m sure by the end of the day, there would be a lot of people talking about it that could actually make a difference in what we are paying for tuition,” he told the paper.