Sunday, December 11, 2005

Zoo Mass

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I applied to college. As a Massachusetts high school student I was exposed to hundreds of different colleges. The state is crawling with great schools. Having watched my two older sisters go out of state to private schools and come home with huge loans to pay off, I decided to take a different route. I only applied to one school, UMass, mainly because I didn't want to be burdened with enormous loans when I graduated. Like most students there at the time Mommy and Daddy were not footing the whole bill. My parents helped out a lot, and I am very thankful for that, but there was never a semester where I didn't have to work to help support myself. I have always been envious of fellow students who didn't have to work. Still to this day it bugs me. A girl in my class this semester was taking classes full time, did not have a job, drove a BMW, and owned a really nice townhouse in a VERY expensive suburb. I am completely jealous - I can admit that. But there are just as many kids who grow up with large amounts of cash as without, and state schools have always been a great option for the latter.

I have been aware of the rising cost at UMass for a while, but the Globe just did an article highlighting how expensive it has become: $15,795 for one year of tuition, room and board and fees. When I started there a little over ten years ago the price was somewhere between $8,000 and $9,000 a year, an almost 100% increase in 10 years. That is insane and ridiculous, and is making me wonder what the true point of public school is anymore.

Now, it should be said that I am the first person to criticize my university. Academically UMass was great, my departments kicked ass and most of my professors were amazing. The rest of my experience was not so great. UMass, at the time, was a drug school and if you were not into getting high every weekend, you probably weren't going to have much fun. I really don't care what other people do with their time, but drugs weren't my thing. I know some people may disagree with me, but UMass also didn't have any of the social experiences that you expect from a large state university. Sporting events were poorly attended and no one really cared if the school did well or not. There was also no real alumni network that you find from other schools of it size. The fact that the largest student organization on campus was the Cannabis Reform Coalition speaks volumes for what student life was like.

I really can't speak for what campus life is today, but I agree that changes are needed to make UMass the top tier school it wants to be. If the rising tuition prices were increasing academics the argument could be made that it is worth it. But, with the higher fees there are fewer tenured professors now then when I was there. Does that make any sense? The Globe article also mentions that two of the biggest draws to Massachusetts students, Northeastern and BC, are $39,000 and $42,000 a year respectively. Hello, debt. These are private schools that can charge whatever they see fit, but state schools were created to be accessible to lower income students. Sixteen thousand a year may not be that crazy of a price compared to private schools, but where does it stop? At what point does tuition get so out of control that only the children of the wealthy can attend? Students with means have every right to attend a state sponsored school if they choose, but what about those kids whose parents can't pay the enormous tuition bills? Where are they going to go?

I am very frustrated with the way they are changing my school. I support making UMass a top tier institution where students want to be, where they can frolic in the experiences of a great university, and where they can look back and be proud of their Alma Mater. Bring it on. I know that change comes with a price, but I don't think that my UMass was so far off from the goal to begin with that the State can justify the hefty sum they are now charging. Can they really be making classes 100% better? Is that possible? I look the future of my state school and wonder what I will see in fifteen years. Right now I can't imagine that it will be good.


allison said...

Ditto. I went in-state because out-of-state tuition was just ridiculous. Now, it doesn't seem to matter.

And while I worked (at times) three jobs to support myself through college, I look at the people who had a free ride (from their parents) with measured pity. They will never feel the sense of pride I feel for making it on my own.

number4of5 said...

I understand being proud of working hard to reach a goal, it wasn't always easy to pass up being with my friends because I had to work, or trying to cram in as much studying as possible on my one day off. However, I don't think any less of my friends and classmates whose parents were paying for school. Isn't not worrying about money something we all want? It is what I want for my future children. I can't be critical of those around me who have the chance to graduate college without loans. I just think that all students should be able to graduate college without loans that are going to take decades to pay off.

But in the meantime I will still drool over their BMW's.