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The Costs of College

Touring campuses, studying for standardized testing, interviewing, completing the Common Application, considering social setting, and figuring out the correct school size are extremely overwhelming aspects of the college process. As if these factors aren’t daunting enough, many students have to deal with an additional factor that can often dictate their college choices: finances.

Touring campuses, studying for standardized testing, interviewing, completing the Common Application, considering social setting, and figuring out the correct school size are extremely overwhelming aspects of the college process. As if these factors aren’t daunting enough, many students have to deal with an additional factor that can often dictate their college choices: finances.

Without additional fees, college can cost anywhere from around 2,000 to 70,000 dollars per year. According to CNBC, Americans collectively owe 1.5 trillion dollars in student loans. Due to the whopping cost of preparing and paying for college in America, most students need to take out student loans and/or receive financial aid during the college process.

The overall college process alone is expensive: tutors, standardized tests, and even the applications themselves cost significant sums of money. It often goes unacknowledged that students who are able to comfortably afford these amenities are the beneficiaries of a certain level of privilege. College Counselor Nila Fortune said “Is it an even playing field? No, I do not think it is. If you can afford an SAT private tutor at hundreds of dollars an hour who is just going to focus on your test power and what you need, you have an advantage, to a degree, over someone who is preparing on their own.”

While there are certainly useful test preparatory alternatives to private tutors, such as Khan academy, those resources are more restrictive and less individualized than one-on-one tutoring sessions. Furthermore, given that a large cohort of students at Packer do have tutors, those who are unable to afford them are potentially at a disadvantage in terms of their testing.

Since we have been preparing for college throughout high school, it is important to think about how finances in terms of college manifests itself here at Packer. College can be a financial strain for students, even those who do not receive financial aid here at Packer. Additionally, for students who need a large amount of aid, the cost of college can dictate the entire college process. With that being said, the full tuition of Packer is already over $47,000 for the 2017-18 school year, so finances may not be a deciding factor for many students.

“There are certainly a lot of families who can just pay, whatever the cost is. Those kids are incredibly privileged and lucky to be able to look as broadly as they want and not have to think twice about money as a piece of their college search,” said Nila.  

“I definitely think that a lot of kids take advantage of the fact that they do not need to worry about the money aspect [of college]. For kids who need extra money, it is so much more pressure. Not only do you need to get into a school, but you also need to afford it. It is not really talked about or acknowledged, because a lot of classmates do not understand that it is harder for some of their peers,” said Hadassah Akinleye (‘19).

Finances often force students to limit the colleges they apply to, especially if schools they are interested in are not known for giving out an abundance of financial aid. Fiscal matters can govern other parts of the college process as well; for example, touring can be a financial burden.  

“Many people that I have talked to who are in my friend group cannot go to see the college that they want to see because they cannot afford to pay for the flight,” said Leila Narisetti (‘20).

College Counselor Claudia Mendez said: “Just like any of the other factors, if [finance] is something that is relevant to your experience and needs to be at the forefront of your search, then it is discussed [in our meetings].”

Finances can be apparent in all parts of the college process, including the decision of whether to turn in an Early Action and/or their Early Decision college application. When submitting an E.D. application, a students’ chance of being accepted into a college can increase; however, the drawback is that the agreement is binding and students can not compare different financial aid packages from other schools they get accepted to.

“I was going to E.D. to a school, but then I decided not to because I wanted to be able to compare my financial aid packages. Even though there was a school I would like to have committed myself to, and I would have definitely gone if i got in, but, I think for someone who needs as much aid as I do, it was a smart choice for me to make,” said Hadassah.

If most of the grade submitted E.D./E.A. applications, students who do not make this decision are often left feeling polarized. In this privileged community in which we strive to create inclusion, it is important to remember that finances play a key role in the decision process of many students.

Anika Buder-Greenwood (‘20) is currently a junior at Packer and the social media & communications editor for the Packer Prism during the 2018-19 school term. Last year, she wrote multiple different articles; among these were pieces in regard to family composition, sexual harassment at Packer, sports, and more. In addition to writing for the Prism, Anika can be found in the Packer productions, on sports teams, or volunteering for local government. In addition to being an editor, she is looking forward to continuing her journey as a reporter. Anika Buder-Greenwood can be reached at anbudergreenwood@packer.edu.

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