Congratulations on your acceptance to Your Childhood Dream University! After a detailed analysis of your financial situation, we have come to the decision to award you with a sum of $45,000 in financial aid for the course of this year at our college.
…But wait, you earned a total of $5,000 in outside merit scholarships? Well in that case, we are going to reduce the total amount of your financial aid package by that exact amount!
Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by your college’s financial aid system.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know why I even applied to Duke University. They had a reputation for giving rather relatively insubstantial financial aid, which thus mostly attracted students of supreme privilege. But somehow, along with my acceptance letter tagged along a small financial aid letter, informing me that due to a generous donation by an alumni couple named Bill and Sue Gross, I was awarded a full scholarship.
It was obviously a hard offer to pass up.
When the financial aid office asked me to report any outside scholarships I had earned, I mentioned a creative writing scholarship I received my senior year. I had already spent this money to purchase items crucial for my college career, such as a laptop, bedding, textbooks, art supplies, and other semi-necessary widgets.
As expected, the school took away the amount I earned in scholarship from my financial aid package. I had no rights to complain, but I thought the same exact thing every other student in the similar situation thought: What gives them the rights to take away the money that I had earned?
And the thing is, unlike me, there are many, many, students in the country where this becomes a serious concern. Their financial aid does not provide enough money to cover their college tuition, so they work to their literal deaths, spilling blood and soul into scholarly achievements in order to earn enough cash for college.
Only for their college to take it all away.
I thought this was the most unfair thing in the world. What injustice! However, I then thought about where my financial aid actually came from. Some super-rich-mega-businessman donated huge lumps of big bills so some random poor kid from the ratchet side of Long Island like me can attend a top-tier private institution.
At the end of the day, that’s how financial aid works. Some privileged family in the rich suburbs of Silicon Valley are paying $60,000 a year to not only send their own child to college, but to also send a stranger or two from the impoverished areas of Detroit to college. And I couldn’t help but ask: What gives them the rights to take away the money that they had earned?
I don’t want this article to turn into a nonsensical debate about economics or politics. However, my point stands clear. We can complain about social injustice all we want, but the truth is, so can everyone else.
The bottom line is this: our collegiate financial aid system sucks. There are far too many students who would benefit from a college education, but simply do not have the opportunities or resources to do so. There are far too many students who could vastly improve our world with a college education, but society has their heads stuck so far up their asses that they to this day, refuse to provide these individuals the opportunities and resources to do so.
Unfortunately, no matter what emotional and familial ties you may have with a college, it is still a business. And like all businesses, its ultimate goal is to make a profit. Thus, when selecting a college, you should think like a businessperson. Is the college of your dreams worth your investment—in not only money, but time as well?
Sometimes, I think to myself: What if I had never decided to use my scholarship to have it taken away by my college, but used it instead to fund my freelance creative writing career like I had secretly hoped to do? Sometimes, I imagine myself living in a small city in Denmark, working full-time at a cute little restaurant, living in a cute little apartment with a foreign roommate (I imagine him to look a bit like Joey Tribbiani, because Chandler Bing is my spirit animal), and working on my writing during my free time on the weekends. Sometimes, I wonder where I would be in my life if I had just decided to drop everything, take a risk, and do something crazy.
But I didn’t take a risk. I didn’t do anything crazy. I settled for the easier path.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t regret going to college. It’s absolutely wonderful. And I’m more than eternally grateful for being given the chance to attend college. But at the same time, I know that deep down in my heart, I would be just as happy if I had chosen not to attend college at all.