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Letter to the Editor – Mary Steele on the Debt Issue

I was greatly disappointed with the front page of the most recent Pauw Wow and the accompanying article inside that addressed the fact that tuition has increased for most Saint Peter’s University students between 2010 and 2011. I have no problem with people criticizing my school when said criticism comes with educated perspectives and is backed up with bona fide facts. I felt like the article could’ve used much more of both of these for the following reasons:

Obviously one of the first things that struck me was the photography accompanying the article. What is the significance of showing the Enrollment Office when it is closed? What message is that sending to the people who work hard to offer personalized time and support for the thousands of students who receive financial aid? Obviously the issue of tuition is bigger than the office, just like the issue of student debt is bigger than this school and therefore can be addressed as such. You picked the photograph because it was controversial and confusing enough to get people to pick up papers, neglecting the fact that it has nothing to do with student debt and sends the worst kind of message about our school to prospective students.

My first issue with the article itself starts with the writer implying that they are going to be brutally honest for the sake of journalistic integrity: everyone is here for the money! This is no one’s first choice school! I saw this introduction as not only excessively negative but also contradictory. Saint Peter’s University is one of the best private schools in terms of awarding financial aid and scholarship and that is why people come here, and yet we are “drowning in debt”? Instead of writing an article about how student debt is a devastating issue facing our country and that Saint Peter’s is faring with it better than most schools, the article chooses vilify the school that works so hard to meet everyone’s financial needs.

My second issue was the personal statements that were chosen to affirm the predetermined agenda to hold the institution and select individuals responsible for how much students will be paying back when they graduate. The first quote was from an anonymous senior who expressed the same concerns that most students who have ever graduated from anywhere have had: getting a job, getting into grad school, and paying back the loans.  The second source was from alumni Danielle Woods (who graduated in 2010, before this whole tuition inflation drama even occurred) who says herself that she could’ve saved more money and picked a more employable career. Were students with a variety of career plans unreachable? What about the one out of every ten students who have had all of their financial needs met? And if you can’t print their responses, then at least point me in the direction of a school where more than 70.1% of the average needs of the student were met. Lane College of Tennessee is the ninth most affordable college in the country, and even their average percent of student financial need that they were able to meet was 74%.

Saint Peter’s University has recently been making several new innovations to the campus and public advertisements, like a new Mac computer lab, promotion of it’s newly declared university status, and the much-anticipated new student center.  These improvements are met with disdain and suspicion instead of the excitement that I personally feel for them. I highly doubt that with the transition from college to university that school decided to shift their priorities from making sure that the private education they offer remains affordable for most applicants to wasting all school’s endowment to buy really impressive, useless stuff. Also, the Mac Mahon student center will be named after the alumni donor that made it possible, so I don’t think that new building will be hitting students too hard financially. In a school where more than 90% of the faculty said that they were rather take a pay cut than have the people lose their jobs, I don’t think these new endeavors would have been pursued if it meant that the school would lose it’s affordable reputation.

In conclusion, I have nothing against criticizing the school as long as they’re done in a way that is informed and makes sense. I would like to see opinion pieces in the opinion’s section of the newspaper in the future.

Sincerely,

-Mary Steele

Class of 2014

 

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