Senior Week too pricey for financially-wary graduates

Reading through my mail last week truly gave me a moment for pause. It was the double whammy of wallet-wasting onslaughts, the Senior Week ticket sale and Senior Gift Summons combo. Jiggling the change in my pocket, which happens to represent an embarrassingly large percentage of my net worth at the moment, the most poetic phrase I could muster was “Oh ephuck.” At least I think I said it; I might just have been hearing what the rest of the departing ’08ers were thinking.

It is not a stretch to say that senior spring may very well represent the most financially destitute time in the lives of many, if not most, of the graduating class. While being broke may be somewhat enlightening, I am just not feeling the great liberation that my knowledge of Fight Club had me expecting. The closing remarks of the Senior Week invitations read, “You deserve the most memorable Senior Week and we guarantee you’ll have just that.” Someone must have sent out the joke invitations by mistake, because this guarantee came right after a request for $190, and another $100 for each additional guest. My suspicion is that it is the same comedian that tags a string of $5 charges onto settled term bills late in the semester and rigs Schow’s soda machine to withhold purchases, but I do not want to get carried away with conspiracy theories.

Can you imagine if this was not just a belated April Fools gag? How does one decide between attending Senior Week and reserving a spot for junior in the Class of 2030? I mean wow, it might make you reconsider going into the nonprofit sector, but then I just think of other successful nonprofits like Williams College, and my fears are immediately put at ease. I could play the “What would you do with a million dollars?” game, a couple thousand times to the tune of a tax-free portfolio. While it would be ignorant to call a $2 billion endowment anything but a blessing, when put in the context of an overdrawn checking account and stagnant job market, some seniors are feeling mixed messages.

Replacing loans with grants in financial aid packages and moving towards an increasingly economically diverse student population are enormous moves in the right direction. The endowment should not be a bragging point to pawn off on prospective students; it should be a tool to maximize the undergraduate experience and provide a support system to allow students to enter the world with an open playing field, unburdened by the anchor of excessive debt. It is tough to be on the brink of transition, last in the financial aid lottery with no consolation prize.

Matthew Baron ’08