Hi admins, can you tell me what I’m spending my $1,394 a year on?
Here’s a price figure you possibly didn’t know was in your tuition bill: $1,394 a year ($5,576 prorated over four years) in student life fees.
In five words: That Is Absurdly Absurdly Absurd.
I think it’s nuts that the student life fee isn’t routinely one of the most contentious topics at Columbia. I don’t need to spend 5.5K over four years to have a life.
Every year when I return to campus, I’m astounded by how much Columbia loves renovating things it renovated last year.
Student council receives roughly $210 of the $1,394 we pay, which I think it spends pretty efficiently (though they really should not fund beehive projects). Where does the other $1,184 go?
When I see new supposedly eco-friendly video screens (that aren’t eco-friendly at all) advertise sparsely-attended events—which by the way I’m also probably funding—I wonder why I’m paying for that. When I read that they’re thinking about getting a flatscreen TV for Carleton Lounge, I think to myself, who goes into an engineering lounge to watch the news? When that one time I was in Dodge at 6 in the morning and I was the only one there, I wonder why we’re paying for those kinds of hours (and why a gym fee is even mandatory).
Here’s a list of some better ways I could spend the $1,394:
- A month of rent
- The utilities bill for eight months
- Three months of buffets for my grandma in China
- A half-hour massage from a four-star parlor once a week
Naturally, there are public goods that need funding. That’s okay. I’m thrilled to chip in my money for Columbia’s printers (we don’t need 105 printers on campus though), campus WiFi, some of CCE’s services, and the Student Space Initiative.
But really, $1,394 a year? COME ON, seriously?
There are scores of students who do work-study here to pay off Columbia’s spending. This guy (and without a doubt many others) literally can’t afford Columbia. What are we spending the student life fee on?
In 2006, the fee was $788 a year—still ridiculous, but more reasonable. What changed?
We need more transparency. I should be able to access some website that will break down where every last dime of that $1,394 a year is being spent. For all I know, that money could be spent on Manhattanville’s funky 23rd century buildings and on hammocks for Provost John Coatsworth and on diamond encrusted tables in PrezBo’s mansion. The administration and the student councils have to justify and make transparent why the student life fee keeps increasing.
Until that fateful day happens and I see that that $1,394 a year is being spent on things more important than giving my beloved grandma buffets for three months, here’s a probably-inaccurate-but-not-until-Columbia-proves-it chart showing what the student life fee should be.
Mikey Zhong is a Spectrum opinion blogger and former Spectrum Editor. He’s looking for a job, preferably in Seattle.
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