College should be one of the most memorable times in a person’s life, not a time of financial stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. However, with the rising cost of attending college and student loan debt more than quadrupling over the past two decades, obtaining a degree is proving to be a strain, especially for students who are financially burdened. One group of low-income students from Columbia University is using social media to shed light on the dismal realities of being a poor student in one of the most prestigious and expensive Ivy League schools in the nation, with a Facebook page entitled Columbia University Class Confessions.
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According to its Facebook page, which is run by the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP), “Class Confessions serves to illuminate the unique experiences of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds” by allowing students to post raw, unfiltered accounts of the real-life struggles they face on a daily basis. Since its inception date mid-March, the page has nearly 3,800 likes and 455 confessions posted to its wall, and the stories being told paint a much different reality than one might think an Ivy League student leads.
According to PayScale’s College ROI Report, the estimated total cost to attend Columbia University is $241,600 and the average loan amount is $32,720 for a four-year collegiate career. Despite Columbia University offering attractive financial assistance, earning a degree from this Ivy League school is still a tremendous struggle for the school’s low-income or financially disadvantaged students, and the Class Confessions Facebook page confirms this reality.
For example, one student’s submission reads, “I’m worried about how I’m going to actually find a place to live and a job to support myself this summer,” while another student confesses, “I know that I should feel very honored to have gotten into a prestigious University … But I feel so guilty for making my parents pay for an education that is making me sadder and more broken every day. I have lost most of my drive to flourish academically but when I try to tell others that I am unhappy here they just shake their heads and think that I complain too much … It makes me feel ungrateful and guilty … but I can’t help it.”
Columbia University Class Confessions isn’t going unnoticed, thankfully. Students and faculty alike are responding to the confessions by offering assistance to students in need, and an Indiegogo crowd-funding site (FLIP Microgrants) has been set up recently to offer emergency aid to students who need help with food, medical services, seasonal clothing, housing assistance, and graduation cost assistance. What’s more, FLIP has inspired neighboring Williams College to also start a confessions Facebook page for its students to voice their struggles with trying to afford college.
Mandeep Singh, a senior at Columbia University and co-president of FLIP, tells Bloomberg, “If anything, I think that’s really reflective of how much this dialogue was necessary at Columbia.” However, Class Confessions should be a conversation happening in all universities and schools across the nation, not just Columbia University and Williams College, because college-hopefuls shouldn’t fear that they have to forgo their career dreams because the cost of college is too exorbitant to even consider. Something needs to change, and, hopefully, Class Confessions will be the start.
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