I went to Franklin & Marshall on a promise from the Financial Aid office. They dangled in front of me the possibility of attending a private liberal arts college at a rate my middle-class family could afford. Now, that number has almost doubled while my college experience has been nearly halved.
Franklin & Marshall is way above average—and not in a good way. According to The College Board, tuition plus room and board at a four-year private college averaged $50,770 last year; at public colleges, it was $22,180. With the 3.5% (you read that right) increase in tuition next year, assuming that housing costs stay the same, going to F&M will cost you around $81,000 a year as a first-year student. That doesn’t include books, printing fees, club charges, orientation fees, or even music lessons. (That’s right, we charge for those now, too.) Although claiming “meet-need” status, financial aid has not kept pace with the rising sticker price, leading many students, like myself, to feel stranded, confused, and as though our initial promises have been broken.
“Should I just take one major and graduate early?” I asked my mom during course registration. I had already planned on graduating a semester early so I could put the money saved toward law school and work a full-time job to pay off my unsubsidized loans. But that hypothetical “money saved” has all but disappeared, eaten up by annual tuition increases and financial aid stagnation.
I’m not naive to the struggle colleges have faced during the pandemic. Enrollment is going down, testing is expensive, and closing down operations is a huge blow. But cuts around the school are all too evident to the student body, and the dissonance between rising prices and decreasing offerings is abrasive at best.
First, it was the smaller things: events were scaled back, student activities were sparser. The staff grew leaner, student wages remained at the minimum, and housing prices scaled up. Then, the classes went under the chopping block. Languages, classics, and music were on the endangered list. The most recent casualty is Connections II– and it’s unlikely to be the last.
I had always dreamed of going to a fancy liberal arts school. Wanting to pursue Government and History since before applying to college made it seem like the perfect place for me. But the constriction of the college, like a dragon coiling tighter around its gold, has made it feel less and less like a dream come true. When I first walked onto campus, I believed I could pursue whatever I wanted. I don’t know anymore if this is true.
The one constant at F&M has been the professors I’ve had. From Psychology to Politics and everything in between, they have all instilled in me a love for learning, the gift of curiosity, and have been irreplaceable mentors to me and those I know. But although they are the ones who make F&M great, who keep the students here and the education at its caliber, the tuition increases haven’t been finding them. Professors here haven’t gotten a raise in years. Not through their adaptation through the pandemic and re-adaptation this year, nor through the social realizations of the Great Resignation or the rising cost of living. As a student, this breaks my heart.
So, this year, instead of sending my check off to build another stadium, send it to the ones who have made going here still worth it.