Let me start by saying that I have zero background in economics and am thus unqualified to accurately project the fate of private colleges and universities with skyrocketing tuition fees. In light of this, do not perceive my message as a glance into a crystal ball, but rather as a nagging concern for future generations of college students.
Prior to the inevitable message received from Bates regarding the tuition increase, I had conversed many times with friends and family alike about the rise in cost of education nationally. Some shrugged off the astronomical uptick, expressing minimal concern coupled with reassurance that the number will have to drop eventually, and others demonstrated slight worry while pondering a future in which they’d have to pay upwards of $90,000 a year for their child to receive an undergraduate experience. Most agreed with the absurdity of present-day costs of private institutions, comparing the hefty American investment to the Germanys and Frances of the world who offer free tuition.
Meanwhile the significant discount placed on in-school tuition in combination with President Biden’s agenda to make community college free begs the question: How do private colleges and universities distinguish themselves in a way that makes their experiences $50,000 to $70,000 “better”?
I would be remiss not to express a level of acknowledgement and gratitude for the resources that Bates has provided me these past four years. I have felt supported and listened to by faculty, I have reaped the benefits of many courses here within my various areas of discipline, and I have relished the opportunity to spend four years in a different state, independent of my family and capable of charting my own undergraduate path. Even more gratitude is owed to my parents, who are both high school teachers and have prioritized paying for my education above all other life costs, which has put me in a highly fortunate position of not having to pay off loans upon graduation from Bates.
With that being said, had I not received some form of financial aid freshman year and been led to believe that I would have some form of monetary support from the school throughout my four years, I would have weighed the costs a touch more heavily.
The concept of need-based aid confuses me at times. I understand that coming from a middle class family means that regardless of the cost of tuition, my family will still be able to live the remainder of their lives with some level of comfort. Therefore, I ask you to consider the numerous mutual aid requests published on behalf of the Bates Leftist Coalition — requests from students who needed money at essential moments such as traveling home through the pandemic. These are the same students who receive extensive financial aid and are allegedly “fully covered” upon arrival at Bates. Is need-based aid truly addressing need?
I fret a future in which only the wealthiest can truly afford a private college or university. I also understand that looking too far down the line can distract from focusing on immediate change. At the very least, I suggest a transparent letter every year that outlines a) where our tuition payments are going, and b) what specifically justifies the inevitable tuition spike. Those in the United States who abhor the thought of being taxed are those who are either filthy rich, or those who do not see their environments positively changed despite having to pay more to the government each year. When the cost of attendance at Bates increases, I expect our resources and positive experiences to do the same.