For four years, I have found pride in my title of Miamian. I embrace the Miami ideal of studying in a global classroom. I practice love and honor in my everyday life. I utilize my critical thinking skills to dream up new approaches for old problems.
But I graduate in a few short weeks, and I will be leaving this school having lost significant faith in one aspect of the institution I love so much.
Miami University has always worked to be the best. We are the original public ivy, recognized by the Princeton Review for outstanding academics. We consistently rank in the top five American universities for commitment to undergraduate teaching. We are fourth for the number of undergraduate students who study abroad. Robert Frost called our campus “the most beautiful campus that ever there was.”
But Miami is not the best in one important area.
In fact, we aren’t even close.
Miami, like hundreds of other higher education establishments across the country, has failed to put people before money.
Over the past four years, I have dedicated my life to this school as an employee, as a volunteer, as an ambassador and as a student, so by now, I know exactly what it takes to be a successful at this school. Yet a week ago, I watched this university turn away the perfect student because of circumstances out of her control.
This girl has worked harder than anyone I know to achieve the things which, too often, other people take for granted. She has worked her way through high school. She has revitalized school organizations. She has devoted herself to academics, and she has done it all with incredible kindness.
And when she stepped onto Miami’s campus, she fell in love with the red bricks, the blooming tulips, the quirky traditions, the charisma from both students and staff, and everything else she saw around her. She knew Miami was meant to be her home.
That is, until she received her financial aid package which offered her nothing outside of a small scholarship which would only be available if she changed her major.
As an out-of-state student like this girl, I know the challenges of paying for Miami because I have lived them, but when you know this school was where you were meant to be, taking out $20,000 in loans is worth it. And luckily, I come from a supportive family which has the ability to fill in the remainder.
Not everyone is so fortunate.
So this perfect, would-be Miamian had to say goodbye to her dream school, though she is still hoping for a miracle to happen before May 1.
Despite the fact that her parents are willing to put everything they can afford toward her education. Despite her willingness to work her way through school. Despite her love for Miami.
Miami said there is nothing else we can do.
I don’t pretend to be a genius, but there has to be a better way, and Miami should be at the forefront of this discussion.
Certain schools have started to utilize income share agreements (ISAs) to help students fund educations they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. With this system, students agree to pay a percentage of their salary following graduation in return for borrowed money from the university used to fund their educations. Schools like Purdue University have already put similar plans into place as an alternative to simply turning away the students who cannot pay.
I’m not saying ISAs are the solution, but maybe they’re a start. Maybe the $2,000 left in my meal plan could go toward reducing costs for incoming students. Maybe the whole in-state/out-of-state system should be scrapped in favor of something better. Maybe we, as a country, should stop thinking that “working your way through college” is still possible for the overwhelming majority.
Like I said, I don’t pretend to be a genius who knows the solution, but I bet that the best minds at Miami could work together to figure something out. After all, Miami strives to be a leader in the education field.
“Weave the story of thy glory” is even a line in our alma mater, but I’m here to tell you that glory doesn’t come from money, it comes from investing in people.
“Love and Honor to Miami, but only to those who can pay” isn’t the best we as a university can do.
Your move, Miami.