With $64,000 a year, you could eat lunch and dinner at the Gramercy Tavern every day. You could go on 280 private helicopter tours of NYC. You could give away 178 season passes to Sugarloaf or attend the broadway musical Hamilton 128 times. You could also donate 213 irrigation pumps to families in need of clean water or 24,000 mosquito bed nets.
Or you could spend a year studying at Colby College.
Colby is not the only private college in the U.S. that is outlandishly expensive. It is but one of the many colleges that leaves parents lying awake at night, wondering if they will be able to afford to send their child to the prestigious school to which they were just accepted.
Certainly, the question on everybody’s mind is, “Is it worth it?”
A part of me wants to think that it is. Our professors are brilliant, available, and passionate. Every night there are events to attend. The counseling services and health center are free to Colby students, provided that they have either the required Colby insurance or another form of insurance. Our dorms are kept clean. Our food is high quality, our club events are funded and supported, and we can print as much as we could possibly desire without ever having to dig around for some change.
Still, $64,000 is a lot of money, and, at times I find myself going mad when I think about what it is, precisely, that my parents are paying for.
Are they paying for the unlimited meal plan? The broken hockey stick from last weekend? The flower beds? The layers upon layers of fresh paint that PPD applies to impress family members on commencement?
Certainly, parents who are willing to shell out on Colby tuition want to see that their children are at a fine establishment. But to what extent are these things necessary? Is Colby catering to the needs of its students, or is it simply trying to improve its rankings?
This brings up an additional point: to what extent is it okay for Colby to be preoccupied with its rankings? I don’t want to complain about Colby’s plummeting acceptance rate, given the ways in which Colby’s prestige may benefit me down the road, but I also worry that Colby may be selling out more than it ought to.
Of course, Colby’s high price lends itself to a decent amount of student-guilt, as well. Is it morally wrong to daydream in class, given how expensive that class it? To go to breakfast at the Purple Cow one day, instead of going to the dining hall, where one’s meal is already paid? What about skipping out on some of the talks or failing to use the Athletic Center?
On the other hand, Colby’s high price can breed entitlement. I, for example, find my blood boiling when four of Colby’s six treadmills are out-of-order. “At $64,000 a year, you would think that they would pay someone to fix the damn treadmills!” I shout to my friend from the top of the Stairmaster, before adding, “My tuition alone could get us 64 of these bad boys!”
I also find myself getting angry when students have to pay extra for anything on campus. “My tuition is $64,000,” I’ll grumble to my friend in the laundry room. “One would hope that that would be enough to cover this crappy drying job, too, but I guess it isn’t.”
I wonder about students who are on significant amounts of financial aid and how they fare given how much Colby students are expected to pay for items aside from the tuition, such as books, smoothie cups, and to-go containers—you name it.
In the end, I think that Colby does a good job of providing us Colby students with unique educational experiences and the tools to be successful and outstanding members of society when we graduate. But I do wish that it would be wiser and more sensitive with our money and with our families’ money.