Mercer Cluster

What are students really paying for?

Blossom Onunekwu, Contributing Writer

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Taking my first steps into the next four years of college life, feelings of invigoration and disgust overcame me. I was finally out of my parents’ jurisdiction and into a new world of friendships and brand new experiences, like being in debt. Moving to college is like a double-edge sword where you win some, you lose some. But initially, I was more interested in the bright side, as you’d expect most freshmen should be. Eventually, however, I learned that there really are more cons then pros when in college, and most of the cons deal with money. Everyone knows college is expensive, but do they even understand why? What exactly are Mercerians investing their life savings in?

The traditional answer to the posed question would be education. Students who excelled in high school are often praised for their academic rigor, and thus, have been conditioned to correlate good grades with a well-known and profound university — or, like my mother says, “a name-brand school.” Yet, the cost of attending college skyrockets every year; is it really solely due to education?

College is a marketplace with myriad of merchants: merchants for your textbooks, for your living conditions, for your food, and then the professors are introduced. Freshmen do not conceptualize this image because they’re blinded by school, at first. They have surpassed the first obstacle and got into the school of their dreams — a “honeymoon phase” if you will. But those that never really fell in love with Mercer are more aware of the similarities between a name-brand education and a fancy restaurant.

Unfortunately, I learned that there are some things unaccounted for in that $2,000 bill I receive every month.

After investing hours in the library on a personal narrative for class, I felt relieved to finally click the print button and walk out with the little bit of sanity I had left. Little did I know that printing would be yet another obstacle for me. “Why isn’t it printing?” I whined to a librarian. Her answer robbed me of my elation like how my mother’s bank account is robbed every month for my education. Printing isn’t free.

You would think that a private school means a private education. That a private education means not only are you rewarded with small class sizes and professors that do more than read from a textbook, but you also have access to essential peripherals, such as printers. Why is the need for printing unaccounted for in our tuition? Actors or screenwriters who have to print novellas every few weeks; Bearitone singers who need to print out sheet music for each mash up; and eager writers who just want their papers reviewed at the ARC; all of us are slapped with yet another merchant, another expense, and another reason we are financially unstable because we are ironically “bettering our education.”

I have found a solution in that problem: save up for a printer. Then I will have to deal with getting it connected, toner issues, expensive ink cartridges, but at least I will have something I can call my own after the classes end.

However, if the answer to all my complaints was to just go out and buy a specific item, my dorm would be a laundromat. I would have to buy my own dryer and washing machine since the laundry service offered is yet another merchant, another “sold separately” necessity. When I learned that washing and drying my clothes are $1.25, I was appalled.

Why then am I spending over $2,000 for room and board? What exactly am I paying for? I spoke with my resident assistant on the matter, and she answered with a list. Two thousand-plus dollars goes to pay for the room space, the electricity, the wifi, and the water. Then I compared my living conditions to those at the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University — two public schools where utilizing the laundry services does not require students to find a job. My friends at UGA are also treated with 24-hour dining services, whereas I am smuggling food from the cafeteria before the weekend hits, and everything closes at the most inconvenient times.

Is it because I go to a smaller school? Is it because Mercerians are investing their money more on educational matters than vanity? Are we compensating for our expensive education by sacrificing peripherals? What makes our education so special? Do employers really care which school their employees come from?

Questions, questions, and more questions. What remains the same is that what normally acts as a right is actually a privilege. People have a right to education but before pursuing the required education for many careers, their education converts into a privilege. Essentially, it is survival of the wealthiest when it really shouldn’t be. We should not have to worry about how we can find jobs to wash our clothes or pay for printing on top of going to class. We should not have to sacrifice our sanity for being accepted to a “name-brand” school only to lack funds to afford the education.

What are we paying for?

 

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About the Writer
Blossom Onunekwu, Staff Writer

Blossom is an undeclared freshmen who's favorite subject is lunch. She enjoys expressing herself through Opinion articles and can also be seen in the Arts...

1 Comment

One Response to “What are students really paying for?”

  1. Grey Newell on October 22nd, 2015 6:17 pm

    The cost of attendance is certainly manageable in this day and age. If you didn’t get scholarships, you could’ve performed better or targeted an easier school. EVERY student qualifies for loans- and if your career couldn’t substantiate the cost of your loan’s monthly payment, you should’ve chosen a different career or a different school. If you say your parents are being robbed- no, not true. You willingly signed up for this expense, here. If your family is legitimately unable to afford the cost of attendance, then there are NUMEROUS federal, state, and mercer sponsored programs that supply need based aid: IF you need it. And again, to reiterate, if the cost of attendance is not worth what you feel like you’re receiving, CHOOSE ANOTHER SCHOOL.

    Room and board includes exactly what it describes- a room, and boarding. If you go to a hotel, what you pay is room and board. It does not necessarily have to (and in fact often does not) include wifi, all access dining during all hours, free laundry, or any of the items you complained about. When you point out large public universities which receive far larger amounts of federal funding, award a far smaller percentage of scholarship monies, and house a far smaller percentage of their student body have some slight amenities our university lacks, you’ve begun to understand economies of scale. We also have far less profitable athletics programs that we’re trying to get off the ground, and we host 12 SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES with a total student body of 8,500. Versus UGA which has 50,000 students or kennesaw which has 33,000 students.

    You are not being robbed or ripped off. Cost of attendance calculators include these incidental expenses you’re complaining about. Get a job and learn to budget your money. There are a plethora of on-campus jobs you could pursue and many near our great university. With no more than 18 hours of classes every week and likely that many hours of homework, you could easily put in 10 to 15 hours of work most weeks and pocket a minimum of an extra 70-100 weekly, which would help immensely with the $2 cost of laundry and the dime it takes to print.

    Tough love. You are paying for access to a rigorous, prestigious education, to be surrounded by your intellectual peers, to expand your worldview and to be given the opportunity to explore the world intellectually and physically via Mercer on a Mission or study abroad. You are paying for a degree of the highest order in whatever subject you please, the ability to literally create your own major should you desire, a vibrant greek community you could participate in and the beginnings of a flourishing college town. An Olympic swimming pool and fitness center. 24-hour study rooms. Intelligent professionals, accomplished in their fields and holders of doctoral degrees who sit in their offices for long hours each week just to assess your work, who personally involve themselves in your success and your learning, and who are available almost literally whenever you need to answer questions and who strive to be very approachable. Try that at UGA.

    To close, according to us news and world report Mercer is the #2 best value college IN THE UNITED STATES, has the #4 best undergraduate teaching, and 73% of students attending receive needs based financial aid. I truly hope you have come to understand the value of what you’re paying is and what it goes towards, and please don’t besmirch the name of this fine university because you feel your situation has become difficult financially. Please talk to student financial planning, I am certain they can either help you or give you the resources you need to succeed at Mercer.

    http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/mercer-university-140447/overall-rankings

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