Debt or Drop Out | The Triangle

Debt or Drop Out

Graphic by Lauren Lee at The Triangle

It is evident that the universities in this country are simply not designed for low-income students. The students with the most debt in America are the ones forced to take out loans in order to attain the degree and education they are more than capable and deserving of. The individuals with administrative power at these universities continue to reap the financial benefits while students live in crippling debt for several years after graduation — if they make it that far.

There is currently $1.67 trillion in student debt because universities make attaining a degree as a financially illiterate individual nearly impossible — unless you are born into wealth. The student debt crisis currently affects around 45 million borrowers in America. Higher education is not the “great equalizer” people claim it to be. Universities like Drexel consistently perpetuate the current class divides by charging over $50,000 a year in tuition costs. Low-income students are being deprived of the higher education they deserve at the schools they are qualified to attend because they lack the knowledge and resources to apply and fund their education.

Private universities across America are using an unfair business plan and targeting “full pay” students who will not need financial aid or scholarship awards. Most of these schools can barely function based on their current business plans, which are geared toward higher-income students. Adjusting their funding to accommodate low-income students would make their system weaker, which would in turn decrease their revenue. According to The Atlantic, “…many schools don’t want more low-income students because they won’t be able to pay for them without a major overhaul of school funding practices.” Higher education institutions are a breeding ground for making wealthy people wealthier, while those from lower- and middle-class families continue to struggle.

Being financially independent and from a low- to middle-class family has caused insurmountable amounts of stress in my academic career and has hindered my progress. I was not aware of the structure of higher education institutitons and was promised success by an institution who does not value my education. Success is subjective to those in power when you are poor. Drexel University was unwilling to award me additional funding, and I was forced to take a leave of absence while there are currently thousands of full-pay students who do not require aid. Getting a degree from a private university is something I am physically capable of doing and more than deserving of. However, the system prevents me from being successful because I require additional funding that the wealthy students do not. I have over $100,000 in student debt and I do not have a degree yet. This is unfortunately the case for millions of students.

In order to alleviate the stress and increase opportunities for low-income students, there needs to be more information available for high-achieving, low-income students. This would increase the number of applications and pressure the business-dominated universities to decrease costs. Universities should be offering additional resources to families to make them aware of their funding options. By offering more scholarships and grants, the administrators and admissions offices can help slowly decrease the number of students in a debt crisis. Educate yourself and your low-income friends and family on the available resources and the effects of student debt. Petition your administration to be more transparent and advocate for those who need it most. College is hard no matter what socioeconomic background you come from. We don’t have to make it harder for those already struggling.