We’ve all heard it before. When the slightest issue in college goes awry, students pull the oft-used, “I don’t pay $40,000 for this (usually trivial matter) to happen” card.
And sometimes, the rationale behind that is a valid one, if there is a professor that routinely cancels class, or the dining hall is offering less than desirable food that day. But more often than not, it is menial issues that cause students to gripe about how expensive college is.
And I’m guilty of it, too. I can think of few instances in which I griped about the cost of college over a legitimate issue, so for the most part, I try to avoid playing that card, as I really am one of the fortunate in this country that has the opportunity to pursue higher education.
That does not mean, however, that there is not some room for improvement or criticism.
About two months ago, I found myself on two separate college visits with my girlfriend, who was looking to transfer out of her current school. Having been in college now for three semesters, I find that my perspective when on a college visit is vastly different. I actually knew what were the more and less desirable things about college, and with this, my view on schools changed quite a bit.
Of the two schools I saw, both were private, one was less expensive (as far as room and board is concerned), and one was more expensive than Springfield. And all schools were relatively small, with fewer than 3,000 undergraduate students each.
With this new found perspective, I walked through the two campuses, listening to the tour guides shell out a variety of information and numbers, and it made me reevaluate the school I currently attend.
I love Springfield College. I feel that from an academic standpoint, I really could not do better for the career I am pursuing, which is the reason I am here. I have made friends that will last a lifetime, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here.
However, as I walked through each campus, I could not help myself from thinking: “My goodness, these schools make Springfield look primitive.” And even though I’ve researched much more into the matter, I still think that Springfield has a long way to go in order to match not only the aesthetics of other schools, but the quality of their facilities.
Simply put, I think that the residence halls we live in are less than desirable. I do not expect anything close to five- star accommodations or to be in some top-ten best residence halls type living circumstance, but despite renovations that have been done over time, I still feel at times like I am living in their original mid-1900s form.
Having worked as a Resident Assistant this semester, I have seen some highs and lows of living on this campus. Though many times it is highs that I see, when lows hit, they are quite low.
Work orders have sat for months yet to be fulfilled, causing students to not have a shade in their room, thus having to improvise how to keep light out. I also witnessed mold growing in seemingly ancient heaters, sometimes the living on this campus can be sub par, given how much we actually pay.
That is not to say, however, that Springfield is alone in this issue, as I am certain that students at every campus across the country have something to say about their living situation. It is just part of college, but that does not necessarily mean it should be accepted.
On top of that, housing does not get much more desirable as students further in their college career. While senior living is a step up from first and mid-year living, the rise in quality of housing from first to mid-year is negligible at best.
That is not to say that mid- year housing has to be luxurious or at the same level as senior housing, but the gap, or lack thereof, between first year and mid-year housing is certainly disconcerting.
From an academic standpoint, there is little question that Springfield is very much a health science school. From looking at facilities alone, it is plausible to think that the college perpetuates this idea, with the high quality science buildings that those students deserve to best prepare them for their field.
I would not have so much an issue with this, if the buildings that house other non-science buildings such as renovated infirmary Weiser Hall and the ill-lit, eerie Locklin Hall, if they were as highly focused on as the others, such as Allied Health Sciences Center.
So what exactly does our money go towards?
According to numbers provided by John Mailhot, the Springfield College Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, roughly 71 percent of student tuition dollars goes towards the salaries, labor and fringe benefits of faculty and staff and financial aid to students, 40 percent and 31 percent respectively.
10 percent goes towards other operating expenses such as departmental operating expenses like supplies, recruitment materials, publications and postage, general insurance and required professional services.
Another five percent goes towards dining services expenses. Additionaly, another five percent goes towards technology, equipment and library expenses. Another five percent goes towards campus projects, maintenance and utilities . A final four percent goes towards debt services expenses.
The college, “is committed to providing the highest quality education possible, while working to keep the costs of attendance at a manageable level for our families,” said Mailhot.
According to Mailhot, over $125 million has been spent over the past decade and a half to build and renovate facilities on campus. Some of those projects have already occurred, like the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union; others are in the works, like the renovations Alumni Hall is currently undergoing; and some are in the discussion stage, like an opportunity the school is looking into to renovate Babson Library.
So whether we like it or not, our money is going into our academics and facilities, and the school is constantly making strides to make the place we call our second home as good as can be.
The final factor to keep in mind is that Springfield is a tuition-driven school. Most of the money the school uses for its expenses are from student tuition alone, as opposed to more endowment-driven schools, which get much of their money from grants and donations.
To be specific, the main Springfield College campus has an operating budget of roughly $130 million. Of that amount, 90 percent, or $116 million comes from charges to the student. The other 10 percent comes from endowment, federal grants, gifts and other forms of income that come from non-student sources.
Every college has its fair share of issues. Some have substandard academics, while some have substandard facilities. Some may even have both. That is just college. No matter what, no institution is perfect. Springfield College may have its flaws, but as a blanket statement, it is above the curve from an academic standpoint and its facilities as a whole are of varying quality–some good, some not.
I still believe the thoughts that ran through my head as I looked at those two other schools, because comparatively speaking, I believe Springfield does have room for improvement, but there is more than meets the eye when it comes to how our family’s tuition money is spent. College isn’t cheap, so it is reasonable to want the absolute best situation, but with that, it is important to keep a rational perspective.
Sometimes it is reasonable to pull the “What does my tuition money even go towards?” card, but before doing so, keep things in perspective. While we all may want a bit more out of our college experience, the bottom line is that we get to have a college experience in the first place. It takes more to make a college operate than most people recognize, so while complaints are reasonable and good, practicality and big picture appreciation are much more important.
Logan Mullen can be reached by email at email@example.com. or on Twitter: @LoganMullen47