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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