Originally published Nov. 24, 2013

The college experience is expensive. There’s no getting around it. But for some students, it’s far more expensive than they could’ve known when choosing GVSU.

Aspiring nursing students, for example, probably don’t expect as freshmen that their junior and senior years will require them to have access to a car—and a few hundred dollars in gas. These students have to gain clinical experience without being reimbursed for their travel expenses even though they may be placed an hour or more away. High gas prices coupled with car maintenance and a parking pass prove to be expensive, especially for students who are often so busy that they don’t have time for jobs.

Certainly, professors and administrators do their best to keep the cost as low as possibly and ease the students’ financial burdens. As Elaine van Doren said in Erin Grogan’s article, “The true cost of education,” she attempts to place her students in clinicals within an hour’s drive. Even a 20-minute drive can be problematic for students—especially those who don’t have cars.

Those without access to transportation have to hope that they’re placed locally or rely on the kindness of their nursing fellows to provide rides. But what if none of the students placed at a far-away site have cars? Should it be a requirement for nursing students to have one?

For many art and graphic design students, there is a surprise cost to pay for supplies like canvasses, paintbrushes, paint and other necessities. Some still have to go the next step to buy supplies you’d think would be provided, such as paper towel or special jars to keep the paint in. This can add an extra $150 or more to students’ costs that is unaccounted for at the beginning of the semester or when budgeting for four years of college.

Certainly, some journalism students never anticipated having to purchase a smart phone—and an upgraded plan—as a requirement for their upper-level courses. A phone, like a car, is not a one-time cost like paint brushes. It requires continual payment for, well, forever. It’s not easy—and for some companies, not possible—to revert back to a simple phone with the simpler plan.

Journalism, nursing and art students are certainly not the only ones who encounter the problem of hidden costs, and this raises the question of why these extra costs are becoming more and more frequent in courses. While the costs may seem minimal at first, they could be huge burdens on some students, especially if just a few dollars separate them from being in school to dropping out and joining the blue-collar work world to provide for themselves.

If these costs could be calculated and added into estimations before students choose GVSU programs, it could save them from starting a program they can’t finish and wasting money on a few useless semesters. The transparency could also help them stay at GVSU by allowing them to prepare for the additional prices in advance. Every cost needs to be taken into account when students budget, and if an extra $200 or more is not being accounted for, that is money that a student is losing in aid or loans to stay in college.

The university should be upfront with students and warn them of extra costs before allowing them to enroll in certain programs. Of course, this sort of honesty might not benefit the university, but it should be a value upheld by a model institution. Don’t trick students into thinking they’re getting a deal.

Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2013/11/opinion-on-true-cost-of-education

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