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Ana Maria Cornea / Gavel Media

Expanding Financial Support at Boston College

There is a vague and pale understanding of the many struggles that college students face. It doesn’t help that most conversations surrounding financial troubles are smothered by arguments that you should stop buying coffee and avocado toast if you want to someday own a house and surpass a life suffocated by student loan debt. However, it is a reality we must accept that some young adults are truly on their own, with no safety nets or trust funds to back them up.

I recently watched a video where Barbara Corcoran, a longstanding investor on “Shark Tank” and New York real estate tycoon, suggested that struggling 20-somethings should simply just “ask their parents for money” when they’re struggling financially. In a similar sense to how ex-president Donald Trump attributes his humble beginnings to a “small loan” of a million dollars from his father, another real estate giant, the mega-wealthy are inherently oblivious to the plights of the majority of Americans.

Comparable to the fact that surveys show 63% of Americans lack the savings to cover a $500 emergency, most college students, especially those without their hands in the pockets of their parents, lack money for a train ticket home or even a Trader Joe’s grocery trip. Sure, for most students their biggest financial burdens are a night out in Boston, but personally, after combining the cost of an Uber, cover fees, and any splurges I’d make on drinks or food while out, it amounts to about three days of work at my minimum wage job with BC dining. I, along with many other students, have much bigger mountains to climb: co-pays at doctors' appointments, the ability to travel home over breaks or in case of an emergency, grocery shopping, and even rent. A study from the American Psychological Association found that more than one-third of college students in the U.S. struggle to have their basic needs of food and housing met. Save the fact that an overwhelming majority of the BC population derives from more wealthy families, this amounts to about 5,000 students here at BC. 

Boston College has an endowment of 3.7 billion dollars and every day I beg the question of where the hell this money is going. 66 percent of undergraduates receive financial aid, totaling $157 million, which is roughly only 4.2% of the total endowment (let alone the amount of money accrued from tuition alone). Montserrat at Boston College is an office under the Division of Mission and Ministry that exists to serve “students at the highest level of financial need on campus,” which is roughly 15% of the undergraduate student population. However, the parameters for “highest level of financial need” are not publicly advertised and seem to be set with respect to the overall wealth of BC students, which, as a 2017 New York Times analysis displays, is relatively high in comparison to other universities. The study states that 70% of BC students come from the top 20%, placing Boston College in 21st place out of 65 other elite colleges in terms of median parental income. It is the 24th in share of students from the top 1% (families who make more than $630,000 a year), beating out universities such as Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, and NYU. 

BC students who are invited to receive the support services Montserrat provides—funding for textbooks, financial assistance for retreats and trips held by BC, and free tickets to a number of social and athletic events—are without a doubt lucky to have an office that aims to ease the plight of college's high costs. However, it is hard to avoid the feeling that there are still a number of students who struggle financially in the face of the massive wealth that BC possesses. I’m not saying that our traditionally conservative institution needs to become socialist overnight in order to adequately serve its student body, but would expanding the support services offered really even make a dent in their hoards of wealth? Surely our trustees and leadership from Visa, Apple, and various prominent investment banks would be happy to increase the assistance BC students receive…right? 

The bottom line is that college students, from our sheltered confines in Chestnut Hill to regions across the nation, are struggling, and I believe it is the duty of the institutions we help advance and promote to actually give back to its supporters (us!). Given the fact that the finances of our university are shady at best—from endowment allocation all the way down to UGBC and CAB—transparency regarding where funds are going is necessary to see how students benefit. Expanding financial support services at BC, beyond just the Montserrat Office, is essential to spreading the share of wealth the university holds. If we expect students to seize every opportunity, to thrive and be successful in their college years, we must acknowledge and ease the barriers that block some students from doing so.

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