College Commits and Classism

Mallory Graybeal and Paige Keith

As seniors in high school, college is a topic that is frequently brought up throughout all aspects of our lives. While some students may be excited about their future plans, they may also be a cause for anxiety due to finances and student debt. We have previously heard it claimed throughout the student body that students who plan to attend in-state colleges, namely public schools such as Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, are lazy and didn’t apply themselves in high school. Not only is this belief incorrect, but also inherently classist.

 In a poll we conducted, 50% of students surveyed said that they would be taking out their own student loans. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average student in 2022 at an in-state institution spends $25,707 for one academic year. For a student attending a school out of state, this cost is $43,421.  For a student that takes out their own loans, it is way more affordable to go to an in-state school than to go to an out of state one. When looking at an almost $18,000 difference in cost, whether a school is ‘prestigious’ or not may become significantly less important to those who are making their own financial decisions. Shaming a fellow student for picking a more affordable college option is discriminatory against their financial situation and just generally insensitive. 

Many students may also plan to attend graduate school. For students who are supporting themselves financially without help from parents or guardians, taking out loans for both undergraduate and graduate school adds up fast. Going to an in-state school with lower tuition for an undergraduate degree in order to save money for graduate school, or to minimize the total amount of debt a student has when they enter the workforce, is a perfectly valid plan that should not be looked down upon. Not everyone is in a situation involving financial support from parents that allows them to choose ‘fancy’ private schools for college and students who need to be aware of that. It’s important for students to recognize that while they are loudly talking down on public, in-state schools in their classes, those sitting around them may not have another option. 

Beyond affordability, schools like KU and K-State are perfectly good schools. According to the U.S. News, KU is the 1oth best medical school in the country for primary care. College Magazine listed K-State as the 4th best veterinary school in the country in 2018. Students who believe that in-state schools are less than due to their acceptance rates, and treat students who opt to go there as such, are painfully elitist and problematic. 

According to the National College Attainment Network, college is becoming significantly less affordable. The Network found that in 2019-2020, only 24% of public universities were affordable for the average Pell Grant recipient. During the 2015-2016 school year, it was 29%. It’s great that some students have the financial resources to attend more expensive schools, but they shouldn’t be making those that do not feel bad about their college plans. 

In 2016, The Wall Street Journal found that going to ‘prestigious’ schools only helped graduates’ income in some fields. For STEM graduates, they found that the average yearly earnings 10 years after graduation didn’t have much variation. “If an engineering student chose to attend the University of Pennsylvania instead of Texas A&M, the average starting salary would differ by less that $1,000,” Eric R. Eide and Michael J. Hilmer said in the Journal. “But the tuition difference would be over $167,000. At the higher salary, you’d have to work for more than 150 years before you make up for that[…]tuition difference.”

Ultimately, different students have different career goals and different financial statuses and plans. All of these deserve to be supported and no student should be made to feel bad about their college choices, as we have seen frequently done within our classes this year.