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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Tuition is enough for now

Published: January 17, 2014
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

Sometime this past year, my mother called to tell me something rather odd: She had received a call at home from a Brandeis student asking for a monetary donation to the university. I felt indignant. Depending on housing arrangements and choices of meal plans, a Brandeis student can expect to pay, at most, upwards of $60,000 per year. Over four years, a student paying full tuition might pay the university nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Why then is it an accepted practice for students to be paid to solicit the parents of current students for money they do not have? Why does the university waste money sending parents mailers to ask for money? This seems, to put it mildly, absurd. Surely most undergraduates cannot spare money to donate to the university after having paid their tuition?

According to the Financial Aid section of the Admissions website, more than half of Brandeis undergraduates receive need-based aid, and that aid can range anywhere from a mere $2,500 to full tuition, room and board. Let’s accept it: Attending a four-year private university is not an inexpensive task. Every student here acknowledged that fact when we decided to attend. I cannot speak for everyone, but as the semesters go by, I’m sure many of us realize the impact this financial burden has on both our families and ourselves. Paying for college is a large financial undertaking, especially if you are doing so on your own at our age.

When I started attending Brandeis, finding a job was one of my first priorities; I knew I was lucky enough to have parents who would help with the cost of my education, and I wanted to help them out in every way I possibly could. I soon realized that finding employment on the Brandeis campus is no easy task, especially as a first-year. The online system used for applying for jobs is a bit challenging to maneuver. I went to the Hiatt center and got my resume approved, applied for as many jobs as I thought I’d be a good match for, and ultimately never really heard back from any of them. I received no written feedback or even acknowledgement that my application had even been read. All I received was a little code under application status that said “001 Reject.” It was, to say the least, disheartening.

While I was fortunate enough to have eventually found employment, I know many students do not have that luxury. It also may be difficult for some students to even find time for a job given already overloaded schedules. Money is a touchy subject for a lot of people. It’s some sort of taboo to discuss financial aid packages; no one wants money, or lack thereof, to color a friendship. But living so close to a big city, the issue of money often does come up. With concerts, shops and fine dining so close to campus, it can be difficult to avoid the subject of money, especially if friends want to have a fun night out. Money is a tough topic to steer clear of no matter where you are in life, but in college it can be especially challenging.

In some ways, I suppose I understand why there is a job on campus for students to call other students’ parents and ask for money: It’s a job that has been created for a student to earn an income, and that is a wonderful thing. Yet I still cannot help but find it absurd that these students are tasked to call parents. Surely there are more wealthy and influential people out there who would like to help finance someone’s education. Call well-off alumni, call area donors and call people with influence. I have no doubts that there are plenty of people out there willing to donate to this university. I’m sure a great deal of us will end up giving back to our alma mater at some point later in life when we will have, hopefully, established financial security. However, that day is not today. I would greatly appreciate it if our parents could stop receiving solicitations for donations. For now, our tuition payment is enough as it is.