There’s no one universal college experience but instead overlapping similarities. Working and going to school. Navigating the confusion that is financial aid. Trying to find a job that not only pays enough, but offers a flexible schedule. But for those select few privileged kids a whole different universe exists. One full of shady admissions processes, free-rides, and minimal stress.
I know there are students out there who come from privileged families that do work hard to get into college on their own merit. Yet with Operation Varsity Blues turning our news feed upside down it’s hard to ignore how far money-hungry universities will bend over for these families.
According to a study by The Condition of Education in 2017, 81% of part-time students worked while only 43% of their full-time peers reported working while in college as an undergrad.
Each student making up these statistics has to work to support themselves, possibly others as well. The worst part? We can no longer work our way through school. Those students who have to work also have to take out loans and rely on financial aid to still graduate.
That’s what makes this college admissions scandal sting a little bit more. These young adults using their privilege to get into elite schools have been pulling these strings long before college was at their doorstep. Never having to worry how they’ll juggle assignments with part-time or full-time work. Never missing out on opportunities because they need a paycheck more.
In a beautiful opinion piece penned by Rainesford Stauffer, she outlines her experience as a graduate student who also worked over 40 hours a week. She knows the struggle all too well- having to skip extra curricular activities to pick up a shift.
The reality is, college is built around this outdated idea that students, like those in the scandal, don’t have to work. That all their time could be spent churning out assignment after assignment. Or joining clubs that’ll not only provide necessary experience but also look good on a resume.
The students getting in solely on their name, a family donation, or any other means of bribery are taking spots away from other students who have worked their asses off to go to their dream school. All of those would-be accomplishments, connections, and prosperous futures are taken away by rich families going to certain schools just for the clout.
Saying our college system needs to change is an understatement. Graduating classes of 2018 left college with an average debt of $29,800. Recent graduates are facing an average monthly loan payment of $393 on top of trying to land a job with stable income.
We don’t have any support for recent graduates to help with this momentous transition. Sure, there’s a deferment after graduation for students who graduated as full-time students. But that is not enough when they also have to pay for necessities. Not to mention when companies require extensive experience for an entry level position and refuse to provide it themselves. There’s no winning here.
Yes, we should be upset at just how far the privileged will go to get what they want. No matter the cost. We should also be upset at the fact that colleges and universities have turned this into a business.
In 2017, colleges and universities alike received a total of $43.6 billion in donations at the end of the fiscal year in June 2017. Now I’m no mathematician, but if we assume that an in-state student will pay a total of $39,880 for a 4-year degree, then universities in 2017 could have used the funds they received to pay the tuition of roughly 1,093,280 in-state students.
Colleges and universities have made less-privileged students an afterthought. That is unacceptable. Everyone regardless of income, social status, or what family they come from deserve an education. They deserve to be seen as worthwhile investments, not a meal-ticket.
Cover image courtesy of The New York Times
Also published on Medium.