With the economy in shambles and the unemployment rate in New York City on the rise, many students are finding the path to college rockier than it was a year ago. Especially at Stuyvesant, where many students expect to attend the elite colleges in the United States, the college process has become even more daunting. Since Stuyvesant is a public school, many students have the qualifications to attend such colleges but struggle to pay tuition. In fact, the average cost for an Ivy League education is around 50,000 dollars annually, while the average household income in New York City is only around 70,000 dollars per year. In light of the current economic recession, it is likely this number will decrease.
Thus, with the economy working against them, more and more students are adjusting their priorities when looking at colleges. “I seriously considered the United States Military academy because it was free,” said senior Samantha Whitmore, who will be attending Harvard next fall. “My parents told me not to worry about any monetary concerns when choosing my school—they said that my education was most important to them, and they would handle all the worrying. So I was lucky, and able to choose to go where I wanted to go the most.”
“When it came down to actually choosing where to go, the financial aid package played a huge role” senior Tina Khiani said. “We all know that everyone usually needs to take out some loans for college, but there are moments where you think about how bad things can get and whether or not you’ll be able to pay off those loans.”
However, not every student is in the same situation. Students who can afford a private education are able to look past financial criteria. “I did apply to financial safeties, but my final decision was not based on costs,” said senior Marcela Rodriguez, who will be attending MIT in the fall. “The quality of education, the student body, the opportunities I would have to do research, strength in my desired field of study, and prestige were my most important criteria. The price was not a big factor in my decision because my parents told me that they have the money to pay for my education—they’ve been saving it up every month.”
Senior Elizabeth Kelman, who chose to attend the Macaulay Honors College, at City College, has a different rationale. “I realized that attending a “name” school with a hundred acres of trees really isn’t worth a quarter of a million dollars unless it’s absolutely perfect. I could go to Macaulay at CUNY for free and be able to pay for grad school without a problem,” Kelman said. Although Kelman can afford tuition, she believes it’s not worth it. “I’d rather have all that money go to grad school, which is where the name or prestige of the school or whatever actually matters in getting jobs.”
Colleges, as well as students, are being forced to make drastic changes to their plans in this economic climate. Unfortunately, however, these adjustments have an adverse affect on most applicants. For example, state schools across the country, which have historically appealed to students because of their lower tuition, are raising tuition as the states reduce funding. According to the College Board website, “most students and their families can expect to pay, on average, from $108 to $1,398 more than last year for a year’s tuition and fees.”
Schools are also projecting massive cuts in scholarships for students for the 2009–2010 school year. According to the Miami Student, a paper for the University of Miami, “Roughly 1,100 scholarships funded by endowments at Miami University may be cut back for the 2009-10 academic year due to the current financial situation.”
For sophomore Sehrash Shabbir, affordability will play a major role in her future college choice. “I have four younger siblings my parents have to think about, so it’s not just me. I don’t think I’d be able to attend a private college without a scholarship or financial aid,” Shabbir said. “Money is an important, if not deciding factor for me.”
“Many others out there are fighting harder for financial aid from their top schools, choosing schools based on financial aid, or applying to honors programs like Macaulay that let you go for free. State schools are probably more popular too,” Rodriguez said. “Although a lot of people still picked the pricey NYU – but then again, the theory is that we’ll pay it all back once we get our degrees.”
Graduating seniors today are facing challenges not seen since the Great Depression. They have to contend with their own economic worries and the cut backs of colleges all on top of the standard pressures of leaving their comfort zones to go off to college. However, they remain confident in their ability to confront these challenges.
“I only get to go through the college experience once” said Whitmore. “Now is the time for our seniors to go out and show the world that they can be successful no matter what stands in their way.”