Fairfield is expensive, and it’s important to understand that as students who go here. I’m in a very privileged position here; when I was starting high school, my parents told me they were willing to dedicate whatever money they could so that my siblings and I could have the best education we could, even if they couldn’t necessarily afford it. I am extremely thankful for them and their help because I know how ridiculous the price of college is today. I thought other people would feel the same way, but I was sorely mistaken.
I’ve met my fair share of people, not even all at Fairfield, whose parents pay for their college. Great! What I don’t understand is how many of them completely take advantage of that privilege, skipping almost all of their classes and failing most of them as well—arguably by choice—because if they did go to class, I’m almost certain their grades would be better. Admittedly, I always felt kind of bothered when a friend of mine, who I know is not funding their own tuition, would call me and say, “Oh, why are you complaining about your B? I have like 3 Fs.” This has always thrown me off because I’ve also gotten calls from my friends who are seniors in high school who have gotten into some top schools and dedicated all of their time and effort to getting into these schools, who, in the end, cannot afford it due to the price. This leads me to my point: that the price of college is unfair to a majority of students and is limiting their opportunities.
The rising price of college is inevitable with the state of the economy right now. There are so many factors to explain it, from the growing demand for college to the growing base salary to pay administrators and professors. An article from Forbes says that the main factors causing growing tuition are “administrative bloat, overbuilding of campus amenities, a model dependent on high-wage labor and the easy availability of subsidized student loans.” I admit, the price of Fairfield isn’t something we can just stage a protest for, but it is painfully expensive compared to many other colleges, with tuition itself (no room and board or dining) rounding in at $55,510.
The price of college itself may not necessarily be limiting students, but the number of student loans they are going to have to pay back if they are to attend said school are. The average person who is paying back student loan debt usually owes somewhere in the $28,000 range, according to a statistic from Forbes. I’m under the belief that more and more students are starting to realize that the name of a school is not worth the tens of thousands of dollars in debt they will be.
I knew a girl from high school who is a perfect example of this. She was a great student, class president, straight As, in every honors society imaginable, three-sport varsity athlete. Everyone thought she was going to be our high school’s “token Ivy,” as there is usually one student each year who ends up at an Ivy League. However, she went to a state school. It wasn’t that she didn’t get into the Ivys or other nationally recognized schools, she just thought that it would be unintelligent to lose so much money for an education she could get at her state school. She goes to Umass Amherst now, which has a world-renowned business program and is in the honors program. What would have happened if she did, hypothetically, end up at Harvard? She would be in a world-renowned business program … with years of debt.
So the students who do have to narrow down their college choices due to money may not necessarily end up in bad positions, but they had the opportunity to go to some amazing schools if the debt they would end up in wouldn’t be so bad. I have a friend who recently got into Tufts and could not afford it, so he is going to a Massachusetts state school. He expressed to me that he was extremely disappointed that he worked so hard to get into Tufts, just not to be able to go. However, he is happy to go to the school he is going to now because he knows he is getting a great education and won’t have to worry about dealing with years of debt after his four years are over.
This goes into the issue of scholarships. There’s a common saying students will have heard: “Work hard and you will get scholarships to college!” Great. Here’s the issue. One, the amount of scholarship money schools offer is not balanced out with the tuition they require. Fairfield provided between $15,000 and $28,000 in merit scholarships, which sounds good when you say it out loud, but when you put that next to the roughly $70,000 you are paying for everything else, that only drops your tuition to the $40,000 to $60,000, most likely on the higher end as the harder the school is to get into, the less likely you are to get a higher scholarship. Either way, the average price that Fairfield comes down to is still more than what a state school would end up being, and even many other private schools.
The amount of scholarship money that is provided to a student can make or break their decision, and if they got into a school that is notably hard to get into worldwide, chances are they did not receive much of a scholarship. I was always under the belief that this is because scholarships are typically for outstanding academic achievement, but when you’re applying to an Ivy, pretty much every student has more than outstanding academic achievements, so it’s harder to stand out. This is something to consider now that Fairfield’s acceptance rate has dropped to about 44.9% for all students. Does this mean it will be harder to receive merit scholarships from Fairfield now too?
There is a known way to help with the financial burden of education, though many people brush it off due to the stigma around community college. Many students will choose to go to a community college for two years in order to not only save half of what a traditional four-year college student would pay but to be close to home to work and save up money. I believe that there is a stigma behind community college, likely due to prestige. I remember having this discussion with my dad, and we were both very pro-community college, but then he said, “I’m all for it. More people should go; but not my kids.” I don’t blame him for that statement. I think a lot of people grew up with the impression that anything outside of the traditional four-year path is “wrong” or for people who didn’t get into a traditional college or for people who can’t afford college. But there are so many benefits to community college or at least just starting there. US News wrote an article on community colleges saying there are lower costs, a straight path to a four-year college, it’s proximity to home, schedule flexibility and there is specific workforce training. If the stigma around community college were lower, this would mean more students would be comfortable with going down this path in order to save money. Fairfield does have a new two-year associate program in Bridgeport called Fairfield Bellarmine. It is for low-income students in the Bridgeport and Greater Connecticut area for them to start in a lower-cost associate’s degree program before transferring into a four-year college. I was glad to hear that this was a project of Fairfield’s, and I think it’s a great step toward acknowledging the finances of college and providing more opportunities for students.
Overall, students who do have to alter their college decision based on money aren’t ending up in bad positions, though it is disheartening to hear that they had the opportunity to go to their dream school if the price tag wasn’t so high. It won’t happen fast, but something deep-rooted in the education system needs to change. CNBC provided a study that “For college-bound students and their parents, a whopping 98% of families said financial aid would be necessary to pay for college.” This limits the variety of educational opportunities that current students and prospective students have, and the world would be a much better place if the education system could reform its prices.