Illustrations by Elisa Mirkil
Another article from the May issue of The Blue and White. Read on forthe final installment of managing editor Anna Bahr’s three-part series on the student debt at Columbia. This last part looks at General Studies. To review the first two pieces, which examine student loans in CC/SEAS and financial aid for international students, please visit theblueandwhite.org.
Just two years ago, Peter Awn, Dean of the School of General Studies, described the limited financial aid available to GS students as “untenable.” That year, GS students received, “percentage-wise, functionally half the financial aid dollars that [were] available to Columbia College students,” a dearth cornering GS undergrads into a future of student debt. Today, GS has surpassed its $25 million fundraising goal as part of the university-wide Campaign for Undergraduate Education—92 percent of which Awn estimates will expand the aid pool in the form of scholarships and grants. With this addition, he believes “the school has turned a corner.”
Awn’s optimism for the future of Columbia’s nontraditional undergraduate college surprised me. Nearly every GS student I interviewed shared a common grievance—the same frustration echoed in opinion pieces in the Spectator and desperate Bwog comments for years—that the value of a Columbia degree is compromised when it demands that scholars be borrowers.
When Hal Levy, GS ’14, graduates, he will owe nearly $160,000 in private student loans. “If I don’t go bankrupt, at the very least I will have no spending money for ten years. I’ll probably be wearing these same ratty clothes, trying to pay off my loans,” he sighed. GS prides itself on being one of a kind—a unique education, nonexistent at other Ivies, in which a diverse collection of nontraditional students earn traditional bachelor’s degrees. But its current program remains a feasible option for only one kind of student: he who can readily afford it. (more…)