A girl I know turned to me and said that this was her last semester, she couldn’t afford to come back. Two days later, a guy stopped me on the path, to ask about financial aid possibilities, saying he was working twenty-hour weeks on top of school and still not making ends meet. Five days later, another person said she was taking twenty-four credits this semester, in an effort to graduate early to avoid additional debt. The next day, I heard from another student who had transferred to College Park already, unable to afford St. Mary’s College.
In nine days I heard from four different students in extreme financial difficulties. At other times throughout the semester, I heard from more than a dozen others in similar situations. Earlier this year, I wrote about what was happening with tuition, and why. I talked about the declining percentage of general budget funds coming from the state, and rising expenses despite austerity efforts. The school is working on solutions, from pushing the state for more money to increasing fundraising efforts for scholarships. Yes, both the school and the state need to work harder, and I’m pushing them on that, but sometimes we can’t wait for others to act. We must act now.
Some of us have been lucky enough to have a parent or other relative or funding source pay for the entirety of our education. We are the ones not struggling to make tuition payments, who take merit-based aid as a nice bonus, rather than as necessity. I am among this group, as many of you reading this article are. That is not to say that I personally have a great deal of money; on the contrary, my bank account is quite small. But what is there isn’t needed to pay for my education. It’s all discretionary funding, and while saving up for post graduation is necessary, maybe I can do with one less new shirt, or one less pack of “Natty Boh.”
At the end of last semester, I made a $200.00 donation for need-based financial aid. As mentioned in an earlier Point News article, another student made a $1,000.00 anonymous donation for need-based financial aid. That is an incredible start. What we need now is every student on the financially stable end of the spectrum, those of us who can afford it, to give whatever we can to help out our fellow students. If all you can give is five dollars, then do it. If you can give more, do it. If you have well off relatives, ask them for money if you’re comfortable doing so. If you have time, write to the legislature and tell them how much we need additional funding. Anything you can give, and anything you can think of outside of direct giving, is helpful. Together, we can help keep every student who wants to stay at St. Mary’s financially capable of doing so. All it takes is a little force of will and a determination as a student body to not let our peers fall by the wayside. Give everything you can, and we can do it.
So open your wallets and open your hearts. Let’s do this thing!