This past Wednesday, the student-run group !mpact, whose goal is to end BU tuition hikes, gathered members of the Boston University community together to address a pertinent issue: “Is BU worth it?”
Perhaps after reading this article, or even joining their movement and learning more directly from the people behind !mpact, you can decide the answer to this question yourself.
!mpact is a fairly new student organization, and they are seeking out more help and support from the student body to take action against the BU administration.
During the meeting, they stressed what we as students can do to help their cause, including raising awareness, networking, volunteering, and organizing. Their short term goal, set approximately for the 2014 school year, is to create and present a campaign to BU that will propose a freeze in tuition. Their ultimate end goal for BU is transparency, accountability, and responsibility, all three of which are their “mission” for discovering how and where BU spends tuition money and what changes in the system can be implemented.
With total student loan debt rising from 260 billion dollars to 1 trillion dollars over the last decade, it seems as though families, universities, and the United States are all quickly sinking further into unmanageable debt.
One of the leaders of !mpact, who wishes to remain anonymous, opened the meeting with a little anecdote. “When we buy food, it not only has to be regulated [by organizations], but they have to give nutrition lists, they have to tell you where it’s manufactured, who made it, when they made it, and the expiration date. This is all information that we, as private consumers, need to know before making an investment in something as small as a $4 packet of cookies. But, when you’re making a $60,000 investment in one year, for something you’re going to have to do for four years, that’s a quarter of a million dollars you’re spending–but when you don’t know where that money is spent, you can’t make an informed decision.”
The guest speaker of the evening was Wayne Langley, an expert in the financial structure of higher education and a union organizer for many university employees. He took the floor and led the audience through a slideshow titled “Higher Education: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly,” which became very fitting as he spewed out the facts to eager ears.
“The industry is in crisis,” Langley started off, referencing higher education. “Universities charge what the market can bear,” he said, saying how universities are “profit making enterprises” and that in today’s society, they “function like hedge funds with libraries.”
Is going to college worth it, and what is school for? Langley addressed this by saying how “information is power,” but schooling ultimately depends on each individual person’s end goal. Whether it’s for a purely liberal arts reason to learn a variety of topics or for vocational reasons (which in today’s economy seems to be most important), every individual’s reason varies.
After four years at a university, during which families pay indescribable amounts of money, what are graduates left with? In today’s economy, there is no guarantee of a well-paying job immediately upon commencement, or even a job at all. Families are now looking for colleges that have the best return on their investment, or the biggest bang for their buck.
“You’re getting a piece of paper with symbolic value,” Langley said, and he stressed that “you can’t take it to the return window and get your money back.” There is no refunding a $250,000 piece of paper from BU if a student graduates and is not able to find a job.
Schools compete for the best students, and they attract the most elite by having the best facilities available. Libraries, gyms, dining halls, and dorms that are cutting-edge and new attract the most students (think StuVi2, 100 Bay State Road and the anticipated addition of New Balance field, for example). However, such luxurious attractions for prospective students come with high costs, and inevitably high debts.
While only around two dozen students attended this event, it showed the potential of students wanting to succeed in making a long-term change. This change may not benefit anyone who is part of !mpact now, or anyone who currently attends BU, but these students care enough about the futures of prospective BU students to start the process of change now.
While the facts are grim, the futures of BU tuition and all university tuitions are ultimately unknown. People can be negative and speculate the future of tuition costs while doing nothing, or they can take the initiative towards change. As Langley said himself, “If you don’t fight for your own future, you’re a victim.” What do you choose?