The cost of back-to-school in college

Nina BartlomiejczykCopy Editor

In the beginning of the fall semester, the campus fills with returning students and new Owls alike. However, within the racing minds of students trying to acclimate to their new classes, residences and surroundings, there lies one shared anxiety among all: the cost of back-to- school.

Students bemoan the cost of school after tuition increases in Southern’s new school year. In the 2018-19 school year, the total semester cost (tuition plus other fees, not including housing) for an in-state undergraduate student was $5,477, and $6,072 for graduate students. This school year, 2019-20, the total cost has increased to $5,723 for undergraduates and $6,372 for graduates.

In conjunction, the cost of on-campus living can bring the price up to, depending on the choice of housing, between $10,289 and $14,117– solely in regards to in-state undergraduate students. Also, if a student were to choose a private institution rather than Southern, these costs would skyrocket even further.

The cost for college rarely ends here, as professors begin to urge students to buy incredibly expensive and frustratingly specific textbooks, which are rendered useless after three months of study aside from their generally unprofitable sell-back rates. Students are needlessly made to buy books and supplies that can cost hundreds of dollars even for courses taken for the LEP requirement, that tend to not be of high interest to the student, and in many cases are taken to check off a box on a degree analysis.

In some cases, these supplies can even require usage such as answering questions within the book, annotating, or ripping out pages, which render them completely useless to anyone else.

Of course, for students who choose – or are lucky enough to afford – on – campus housing, there lies the additional cost of dorm room supplies. These supplies range from things like phone chargers and alarm clocks to pillows and blankets. While one could argue that these supplies are not technically necessary and thus are not included in thinking about the cost of college, it is hard to believe that any sane student would move into a dormitory without bedsheets.

In addition to the cost of college monetarily, there is also a cost to pay with one’s sanity. The cost in this criterion lies in the moments where one wonders what they really want out of life, if their major is truly the right fit for them or if they should even stay in school at all.

When complex problems arise, such as being denied entry to housing because
a loan has not yet been approved or forgetting to pay tuition on time and being promptly booted out of the classes fought tooth-and-nail to get into in the first place, it can be hard for someone who is barely cutting their teeth on adulthood to even parse, let alone begin to rectify.

The reality is that college students are all tired, stressed, underpaid, overworked and more- or-less clueless as to how to begin to function in an independent adult life, no matter how hard some may pretend they can manage.

The expectations set on young adults are no less than lofty in the modern world, where they are saddled with jobs, school, bills, debt and the looming responsibility of inheriting the country. Yet, as college becomes more of a necessity than a choice, we all must continue onwards and upwards, preferably all the wiser because of it.

Perhaps this article will instill in someone a newfound disappointment in the state of the affairs they face, or cement an already cynical view. However, setting this possibility aside, the hope is that someone will think it best not to scoff at a freshman having trouble finding “Englemen C112”, and to instead offer a helping hand, knowing we all face the same problems and share one sometimes troublesome, but ultimately worthwhile, narrative in our current lives.

Photo Illustration: Nina Bartlomiejczyk

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