College is expensive. That is no secret. First you have to come up with tuition, which more and more people seem to finance with loans these days-because let’s face it; how many of us can afford to plunk down over a thousand dollars at one time?
Like many CSUN students I am not so lucky to have parents who make gobs of money or even much money at all, and with a veritable litter of seven children in our family, the idea that they ever would have been able to save for my college education during my childhood is comedic. However, despite the fact that I grew up in a circus of a home, I somehow got it into my head that I would go to college at some point along the line.
So here I am. With student loans, a stipend from the Sundial, and some grant money from the government, I am able to survive. But I have to say, there are some people out there that really seem to be doing their best to make sure I don’t.
Well, OK, maybe their primary goal is not to break my piggy bank and send me off to a homeless shelter. Instead, it is probably more along the lines of enlarging and maintaining their own “piggy banks” with the following philosophy: “People will always find a way to pay for what they have to pay for, no matter what the cost entails.”
In other words, if I choose to go to college and that college requires me to buy a $126 parking pass or face racking up numerous, expensive parking tickets, I will buy the pass, even if it means I go further into debt or have to borrow from Aunt Tilly, yet again. The important thing to the university is not how I pay for the pass or what it cost me personally. The important thing is that I bought the pass, by any means necessary.
Similarly, going to college means I will have to purchase books for my classes. I really don’t have much of a choice about that. Knowing this, college bookstores sell textbooks for sometimes over twice their value.
Hungry? If you only have a couple of bucks to spend, you may be able to get a granola bar here on campus. I like granola bars, and subsequently have found that these miniscule snacks of minimal nutritional value may cost just under a dollar here on campus, depending on the kind you get. I am still hoping to find the gold nugget hidden among the flakes and nuts, or something that would otherwise explain why this little rectangular food particle costs so much.
If you only have a couple bucks and you buy that granola bar, you definitely won’t be able to get anything to drink. If you are both hungry and thirsty, you will have to choose which need is more urgent, because a bottle of plain old water is $1.25, and if you want some juice, you better dig deeper into you pockets, because you will have to pay close to $2 for some strawberry-kiwi deliciousness. I can only guess that someone is making a pretty profit here.
This does not even take into account the numerous extra costs that we have to pay as college students. We start paying for college before we even get here. It starts with application fees. Then if we are accepted, we have to pay another fee if we want to leave with the degrees we earned.
So after being accepted, paying all our tuition and completing all our necessary units, we still have not fulfilled our requirements. The last requirement has nothing to do with academics, it has to do with an extra $50 that will be bilked from our bank accounts, to disappear somewhere into the bowels of Cal State Northridge.
Recently, I had to take the Upper Division Writing Test, which entailed (of course) an extra fee. This is something that I really don’t understand. I wrote a personal statement before entering this university. Presumably, it was read by someone who evaluated my writing capabilities, and I was admitted based on my ability to formulate an essay using proper syntax and organizing sequential sentences into paragraphs. Whether I am Charles Dickens or a borderline illiterate could have been assessed from that, I would think. Additionally, I am a graduate student, which means I am in trouble if I don’t have at least a semi-tenuous grasp of the English language. None of this counted for much, apparently, as this test and its requisite fee are mandatory for all CSUN students in order to graduate from this school.
I understand very well that it costs money to run a university, and I do indeed believe that students should carry a percentage of the burden. However, the overall expense of life on this campus causes me occasional confusion; am I at CSUN or am I at Disneyland? Why do I have to pay $4 for a really lousy sandwich from The Edge? When does the movie start?
Life is expensive, I am all too aware of this. I think just about every student in the CSU system is. But we are at this university to try to better our own lives and become productive, educated, thinking members of the community, not to get reamed financially. I would like to see college administrators start standing up for students, instead of standing up for, say, PepsiCo though. Maybe if universities start seeing higher education as something other than a business venture, students will too.
Bethania Palma can be reached at email@example.com