When COVID-19 hit and the state of California was put under lockdown, many were concerned not only about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones, but also their financial situations. Due to the coronavirus, many people were unemployed in order to restrict the amount of people working in one place, and many small businesses shut down. The national unemployment rate increased from 3.5 percent in February to 14.7 percent in April. While the rate decreased to 6.9 percent in October, it is still twice what it was in February. Now, with a second lockdown most likely looming in the distance in the face of recent stay-at-home orders, we may expect the unemployment rate to increase slightly. College students, especially, are worried about their own financial situations during this pandemic since they still have to pay for their college education. So, when the college you are already paying tuition and fees for, while managing these stressful times, asks you and your parents for donations, it conjures up very conflicting feelings.
Giving Tuesday is an annual event in which donations are given to the Whittier Fund in order to “meet the most pressing college needs and help [Whittier College] sustain the core services that are the essence of the Poet experience.” Considering that Whittier College is a private institution, meaning most of their funding comes from private donors and tuition, it is understandable that they would ask for donations and host fundraisers or host certain days meant for donating. This is especially essential now that the College is planning to freeze tuition for the second time in a row in an attempt to make it affordable for their students.
When asked about how she feels about being asked to donate to Whittier College, second-year Zoe Iseri states, “I think that it is okay for Whittier to be asking for donations because there are some people that can afford to donate [or] plan to donate, and I think Whittier College needs the funds, to an extent. Also, I think it is important to keep in mind that funds donated would indirectly help students, as it would help make sure the campus standards can remain the same, and may help students financially, like how people can donate to scholarships. I do think, [however], it is a very uncomfortable conversation to have, and they should be sensitive in any information they send out about donating, especially during this pandemic. So, I think if the campus sent out like one message about it that would be okay because then people know that they can donate, but [as long as] it is not hounding individuals.”
I also have no problem with people donating to the College so students can both afford to attend and receive the resources they need, but there is something that does not sit well with me when the College is asking me, a current student, and my family, for donations.
I am currently a sophomore at Whittier College and, already, I have taken out two loans in order to help pay for my education. My entire family was against it, but I figured it would be a good investment for my future (as everyone who has ever taken out a loan for college would tell you), and I am happy with all the opportunities the College has provided me thus far. However, I think I would be even more happy if the College stopped asking for donations from my family. Tuition is already expensive enough, and Whittier College knows this — else they would not have freezed the tuition for this school year, nor would they focus on finding ways to make college more affordable.
My parents and I already worry enough if we will be able to pay the full tuition for the school year, and while I was willing to take out two loans already, I’m not sure if I’m willing to take out a third one. Is it wrong that I don’t want to spend my entire life paying back my loans? According to Forbes, student loan debt is now at about $1.56 trillion, with about 44.7 million borrowers. My parents and I are already worried enough about paying tuition and trying not to increase my student loan debt, so why is Whittier College asking me for more money in order to help make my college education more affordable?
The pandemic isn’t doing anyone any favors in regards to paying for college, either. I am thankful that I am able to work virtually from home through the Quaker Campus newspaper, but many other students were dropped from their work-study jobs due to the inability to work virtually. For students whose work-study jobs were their main source of income, it brings up an issue of how they will make money. This is a precarious time for everyone, and not everyone is lucky enough to be in a secure financial situation, or lucky enough to not already be in debt before graduation. If Whittier College is going to ask for donations during a pandemic to help fund our education, they should focus more on outside donors and alumni rather than families of current students.
Maybe I shouldn’t be too opposed to the College asking for donations from current students and their families. Maybe I should be all about ‘Poet Pride’ and give what I can to the College, even if it is just one dollar. However, watching my parents working hard day after day just so they can help me afford an education, and hearing about others’ difficulties in affording college during this pandemic, I just can’t find it within myself to be okay with being asked, along with other students, to hand over more money to Whittier College. I’m barely getting by with paying them the yearly tuition, and, no doubt, there are other students in unsteady financial situations as well. Whittier College students are also upset at still having to pay student body fees despite not having any in-person student activities. How can we be expected to pay more just so an education at Whittier College can be more affordable? That completely contradicts the message Giving Tuesday is trying to send. If Giving Tuesday is about supporting students, then don’t ask the students and their families to support themselves, especially during a time of questionable (at best) financial stability.
Feature image: Courtesy of Whittier College via Facebook.