Bills, bills, bills: the truth about tuition

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By Sasha Zuflacht

$52,329: the cost of tuition at Union College. By the time you graduate, you will have spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars on your education. Is it worth it? As a private liberal arts college, Union has one of the highest tuition rates in the country. Here in Schenectady, many of us wonder why we are paying so much. As news surfaces of yet another increase in tuition, students are becoming even more frustrated.

The tuition fees and financial aid information are displayed on Union’s website. The site claims to distribute $40 million in aid and $32 million in scholarships each year. Nearly 60 percent of Union students receive some form of financial assistance. To any prospective student, these numbers look good.

While the Financial Aid office works hard to provide each student with a fair financial aid package, sometimes it’s just not enough. As tuition increases, students find it increasingly difficult to cover the costs. Certain students have a fixed package each year, and as tuition grows, their package remains the same. How is this fair? Who is really at fault for this increased financial burden?

It is also necessary to reflect on the state of the economy. Union is not exempt from the financial troubles impacting our country. The financial crisis undoubtedly affects the financial aid process. It’s important to keep this in mind. However, with the crumbling economy, students need aid more than ever.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how to change this system, and unfortunate to watch students struggle to pay for school. As a student, I wish there was more Union could do to ease the burden.

In the last issue, I wrote about the new Wold Center. This amazing facility was built with the generosity of John Wold and his wife Jane. Union did not pay for this project on its own. But why are supporters of the college so willing to donate to a new project? Where does the money for financial aid and scholarships come from? Supporters want their names attached to their donation. Thus, they are more likely to help fund a specific project rather than support the annual fund.

Many students would benefit more from financial aid than a newly-renovated classroom. At the same time, the better Union College looks, the more respected and prestigious your degree will look. A polished education requires state-of-the-art buildings like the new Wold center.

I write this article as an advocate for Union College. But what type of student would I be if I didn’t question the things around me? I sincerely believe that the education Union can provide will help all of us succeed in the future. Our ranking at number 13 for Bloomberg Businessweek’s return on investment makes this point clear.

Yes, attending a school with less prestige or going to a community college would make the loans a little less cumbersome. The fact is that the education and experience offered at Union is (as corny as this sounds) priceless. So, as our frustration worsens, we must keep in mind what we are really here for. The increase in tuition may be met with discontent, but in the end, we must keep in mind that it will all pay off—pun intended.

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