Last week, Student Government Association Executive Treasurer Abigail Semple wrote in a letter to the editor, “At Emerson College, we have a problem.”
She said there is a serious problem with our school’s available funding, or rather the lack of it. And she’s right. Emerson College has a small endowment, a total of $171.6 million, which funds the account that sources some scholarships, financial aid packages, and campus resources.
Semple suggests student donations as a solution to fixing our school’s endowment.
“By contributing to Emerson’s endowment, where even a spare 5 dollars can be a meaningful contribution, we are making Emerson a better place,” Semple wrote.
The problem with her solution is that some students, including myself, cannot spare five dollars to a school that already does not meet our financial needs.
I admire Semple’s passion for trying to solve our school’s endowment. I love Emerson, and I would hate for our school to have to merge with a larger university or dissolve completely. However, suggesting student donations as a solution to this problem is insensitive and ignorant of low-income students’ struggles. Every year, I witness students, specifically low-income students, transfer or drop out of Emerson because they are unable to afford our high-cost attendance.
The tuition for the 2019-20 academic year at Emerson totals $48,560. Room and board for a standard double room sums up to $18,400. These two numbers combined equal $66,960, and this charge does not include additional fees for books, health insurance, tuition insurance, and transportation. I am paying an estimate of over $70,000 in total to attend this school, a number almost twice the national average of private school tuition.
$70,000 is a lot of money, especially at a school that only fully meets 7.3 percent of its applicants needs. My financial aid package covers over half my tuition every semester, but I am still left with a $10,000 to $15,0000 balance. As a low-income student from a single-parent household with another sister in college, paying this deficit out of pocket is nearly impossible.
So, the only option left for me is to take loans. However, since my sibling is also in college, my mom is unable to secure a loan that covers my remaining tuition. Therefore, I am still left with a $1,000 to $2,000 deficit.
My last option is to call Student Accounts or visit the Office of Student Success, where I must ask or appeal for additional funding in order to register for next semester’s classes. Every semester, I jump through hoops, trying to figure out how I am going to pay my tuition and continue my college education. Therefore, I shouldn’t be asked to donate to our endowment, especially since I’m faced with the reality that I may have to transfer or drop out every semester due to insufficient financial aid.
My situation isn’t unique. Last year, then-freshman Emily Cardona wrote an op-ed about her struggle as a low-income student attending an expensive college. Cardona wrote about how her Digital Journalist class required a $75 external hard drive she had to pay out of pocket, despite submitting an application to the Student Assistant Fund. While $75 may not seem like a lot of money, to low-income students such as Cardona and I, every penny is worthwhile.
There is no perfect solution to this problem. As Emerson continues to expand in terms of size and students, tuition will only continue to rise. And while the college promises that the financial aid budget is increasing, too, I have not seen this promise affect my situation. Instead, I regularly see my friends and classmates struggle to afford our high-cost tuition every year.
It is unfortunate that our school has a relatively small endowment. While I am sure many students would like to help, for me, donating, even if it’s five dollars, is not possible. Until every student’s financial aid needs are met, we should not ask the students to donate. Students’ tuition should be enough.