Earlier this month, I was speaking to a friend who was in obvious distress. She had just sold her required textbook for her biology class to pay for the remaining amount on her bursar. Without economic support for her family and no way to afford to pay the rest of her tuition, she sacrificed a tool needed for her education to continue her education at the University of Mississippi. This situation saddened me and brought to my attention the growing financial crisis on our own campus.
In college, there is a general expectation to be involved in as many extracurriculars as possible while maintaining a social life. The high cost of tuition and fees seems, to many, as an obstacle to higher education and a better life. Without proper introduction on how to afford a seemingly normal college experience, the conclusion is quite clear: Ole Miss must provide more resources to better equip students with the knowledge of how to manage finances for school and provide more need-based grants for low income students.
The University of Mississippi offers no courses on how to manage the expenses of college. I believe my friends that are skipping meals to simply afford a textbook would benefit in many ways from money managerial courses, and I’m sure there are multiple other students out there doing the same. Ole Miss offers EDHE, a first year experience class and makes it out to be of utmost importance, but where are the money management courses?
How does one’s liability to pay for a higher education affect their quality of life? A 2017 study using government census data found that 52% of college students are working jobs 27 weeks a year, with 24% of students saying that they are held fully responsible for covering all of their college costs. If these students are working over 27 weeks a year to fund living expenses, tuition, food, etc., when will they have time to study, build resumes with extracurricular activities or enjoy the simplicity of hanging out with friends?
The average yearly cost of in-state tuition in the U.S. (2019-2020) is $10,116, but the actual costs are much higher. The burden placed on students to excel academically while paying costs (books, food, transportation) is too much to expect from people who are usually straight out of high school. With many students being clueless to the difference between subsidized, unsubsidized, consolidation and federal loans, the expectation for 18-22 year olds to even apply for them is honestly ridiculous.
A staggering 70% of students said that they planned to use their own earnings and savings to pay for their education without help from their family. One-half were using scholarships, while the other half were using loans. According to The Hechinger Report, as many as 40% of low-income students accepted to college will choose to not attend, due to the inability to pay back loans, afford off-campus housing or even afford things as basic as food.
With as many as 35% of employers expecting a bachelor’s degree for entry-level jobs, the pressure to receive a higher education is placed on students’ backs. Even though these are problems some students may never have to face, or even consider, we should all care. It could be affecting any of your classmates. With high school degree holders half as likely to be employed as someone with a higher education degree, a college degree significantly increases one’s possibility of employment.
These issues cannot be solved until colleges increase the amount of resources to guide students through financial processes and provide more need-based grants. If higher education is really the goal, make it more accessible to all, not just the financially secure.
Sophia Meruvia is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Philadelphia, Mississippi.