By Lindsay Huffman
“Oh, those poor, broke college students.”What may admittedly be a stereotype is also a truth: college students aren’t exactly rolling in dough. With the combined costs of tuition, housing and general sustenance-paired with the fact that if students have a job, it is probably minimum wage-the financial state of most students borders on destitute. And yet, despite this knowledge, Eastern continues to jack up its prices for various items around campus.
One might think the university would understand the monetary hardships of its students considering how much of the students’ money goes to the university; however, that hasn’t stopped Eastern from inflating its prices.
Take a soda, for instance. Last year, the price for a bottled soda from a machine cost $1.25. This year, sodas cost $1.50. A quarter may not seem like a big difference to the administration, but a quarter to a student may be the difference between wet or dry laundry.
Then again, laundry, too, now costs a quarter more per load because of the high-efficiency washing machines and dryers installed in the residence halls last year. On the one hand, the university is saving money on energy costs and the dryers can hold two loads of laundry if necessary. On the other hand, though, the sizes of the washing machines are a bit smaller than before and students may have to separate one large load among several washing machines.
However, students can’t go without clean clothes or their sodas, so upping the prices on laundry and pop can go largely unchallenged by the Eastern population.
And this principle applies to most of the items that sport inflated prices around campus: textbooks, meals in upstairs Powell, convenience store items and even the price of using the recreation facilities on campus. What used to be free for students now costs $12-even for the students who don’t use the fitness centers.
Of course, a bit of inflation is to be expected. The nation is still recovering from one of the worst recessions in its history, so prices will continue to fluctuate for a while. But shouldn’t the university, which has won several awards in the past few months for being an excellent, affordable school, be more, well, affordable?
The university is taking advantage of its students who are struggling to make ends meet until they can begin their careers. If Eastern keeps inflating prices, how will students be able to pay for everything they need?
A suggestion might be that students need to budget more wisely. While this is sound advice for every person, it’s a bit like preaching to the choir in this situation. Students have it drilled into their heads as soon as they enter college how to judiciously spend and save money. In fact, if there’s one group of people in the country that knows how to budget well, it’s probably either retirees or college students.
People attending college know that in order to survive, you have to budget correctly or else you’ll be stuck inside the house on a Friday night because you can’t afford to go out. Even if students work all week long to have some cash on hand, they know that splurging one night means not having money the next.
But even knowing what students have to balance financially off campus, the university usually only adds to the students’ budgeting woes. With all the new fees and higher pricing, budgeting becomes almost impossible for students. Instead, they have to figure out what they can sacrifice in their expenses or spend hours poring through coupon books looking for ways to save money.
But this isn’t an issue of students having to sacrifice their favorite activities in order to pay for that soda between classes-it’s about students having to go even further in debt in order to pay for that customized textbook that costs more just so Eastern can have its own special edition. It’s about students paying as much for a meal in upstairs Powell as they could at some sit-down restaurants. It’s about a university that claims to be affordable, yet doesn’t inform students about how much money it really takes to live and learn on this campus.
If Eastern wants to be more affordable for current students and more accessible to prospective students, then there should be open communication between both parties. If inflation is going to occur, the campus community should be warned beforehand. And if the university truly wants to be a fiscally good choice for students, it has to extend its affordability to all areas of campus.