Pointless university fees contribute to rising cost of higher education

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With tuition reaching as high as $49,505 this year, sometimes I begin to wonder where, exactly, all of our money is going. Most of the people I talk to agree that there are definitely a lot of things that Carnegie Mellon spends too much money on. Unfortunately, most of these people could not tell you what they are. That being said, one thing that 100 percent of people agree on is that the cost of higher education is ridiculous now. In general, I feel like this university suffers from a misallocation of funds.

First off, let’s talk about Orientation. Coming to college is a great experience and can be a huge event in many people’s lives. Orientation is obviously a great way to get new students acclimated to the campus, the community, and living away from home. So most schools have an orientation that lasts for two or three days, tops. Ours, of course, is a week-long affair. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Orientation, and I totally think that a week of just first-years on campus can help students kind of fall into college life more easily — by the time classes start, you could potentially already have your friends for the rest of college.

Unfortunately, after experiencing Orientation, I still cannot figure out just what I paid almost $200 for. Okay, fine, $200 is like nothing considering all the stuff you get for the whole week of Orientation. But looking at the overall picture, every single first-year (commuter and transfer students included) pays $200 for Orientation. At 1400 or so first-years every year, we’re talking $280,000 for Orientation. What? That much money for what pretty much amounts to nothing more than T-shirts, food, and a million and one ice breakers featuring Rita’s Italian Ice? (Although I must admit, the T-shirts get better every year.)

In addition to Orientation, RAs have decent-sized budgets for social events for their floors. That’s cool and all because it’s kind of a nice emphasis on community and socializing. But technically speaking, these funds (much like Orientation fees) are going toward socializing students. We are more or less paying to be forced to interact with one another. I’m sorry, I’m not really a fan of having to pay to hang out with people. Floor events are fun sometimes, but truthfully I’m usually too busy doing my homework to even go. I can socialize on my own time.

In addition to outrageous socialization fees, why is it necessary to have a sleep pod for campus that is worth anywhere from $8000 to $12,000? Alumnus Arshad Chowdhury’s company MetroNaps installed an EnergyPod in Hunt Library in July. The EnergyPod was researched and tested at Carnegie Mellon while Chowdhury was an MBA student here. The EnergyPod provides a completely isolated environment in which the user can take a nap and wake up feeling refreshed. It boasts perfected body positioning for optimal comfort and relaxation, Bose headphones, and a full-body alarm clock. Sounds pretty cool. Except in all seriousness, if you’re really that tired, why don’t you just go home and take a nap? About 75 percent of Carnegie Mellon students are living in campus housing any given semester, so you really could just go back to your own room or your friend’s room, or your significant other’s room. And if you don’t have enough time, suck it up. Find someplace else to sleep. Rough it like millions of college kids have been doing for probably hundreds of years. I personally love the third floor of Hunt for taking naps. Roberts Engineering Hall, the UC, and the Engineering & Science Library are often mentioned (in passing) on campus tours as good places to nap as well.

While the EnergyPod may be a good idea overall, may yield impressive results as far as user alertness after a nap, and may or may not have been actually purchased by the university, I hardly think it necessary to have one. Even if the EnergyPod was donated, there is still the cost of upkeep, maintenance, and fixing it if and when it breaks.

In any event, a recent flip through the 1988 issue of The Thistle as I sat in the admissions lobby revealed to me that people thought the same things about the cost of tuition back then as well. I believe the quote was “We’re paying $16,000 a year for this?” That was 19 years ago and the year I was born. Tuition has more than doubled since then. Going to college costs more than some people’s parents’ combined annual income.

My friends and I often joke that in about 25 or so years, when our children are ready to come to college, campus tours will be given as such: “Welcome to Carnegie Mellon, where at $100,000 annual tuition, we only accept 100 students a year because they’re the only ones who can afford to come.” No matter how you spin it, college is expensive. Tuition, fees, books, food: The cost of living for college students is unbelievably high and will only continue to climb. Maybe just cutting the little things here and there that are somewhat unnecessary would help alleviate the situation.