By Alexandria Nyx PZ ‘26
By using a one size fits all approach for financial aid, Pitzer abandons the needs of its students in areas like housing and travel. As well as, the core values it uses as selling points to entice students to attend the institution.
Speaking as one of the students affected by this, it’s especially contradictory with some of the main tenets of Pitzer being ‘Social Responsibility’ and ‘Student Engagement.’ Financial aid being capped at certain amounts, especially ones that don’t actually represent how much we need, causes so much stress.
There are several categories you’ll see on your Pitzer financial aid package: Tuition, Student Activity fee, Room & Board (Room Rate + Meal Plan), Books and Supplies, Personal Expenses, Student Insurance Plan, and Travel. These all make up your Cost of Attendance. The activity fee, tuition, books and supplies, and insurance plan are similar for each student. Room and Board has the same range of variability as well; only changing depending on what meal plan you choose. The problem comes in when we get to things like personal expenses and travel. These numbers are estimated and capped at what Pitzer deems reasonable, however, in doing so Pitzer ultimately becomes blind to the true needs of its students, and strays from its core tenets of “Social Responsibility” and “Student Engagement.”
As defined by grammarist, “The idiom one-size-fits-all describes an item, situation, or policy designed to accommodate a large number of people. Something that is one-size-fits-all will not be an exact fit and is not tailored for every circumstance, but it will suffice.”
“Recent research indicates that the current financial aid policy debate fails to understand low-income students’ and their families’ awareness of college affordability and financial aid information. This lack of attention is a cause for concern because financial aid is more likely to determine college choice and enrollment for low-income students than for any other group,” said associate professor of higher education at Azusa Pacific University, Mari Luna De La Rosa. “If the historical goals of college financial aid are to provide support for college opportunity, then the programs are not reaching those especially in need.”
A Pitzer international student, who wished to remain anonymous, told me, “As for travel funding, I did not get any and this was actually a really big issue. A round trip to get home can be around $2,000. I’ve had to dedicate almost all of my work study money towards my flights to get home. I’ve spoken to Pitzer about it and every time, they just ask if there’s a place I can stay in the U.S. instead. It’s quite hurtful to hear that being their proposed solution while everybody else is able to conveniently go home for a month-long break.”
Each year Pitzer certifies the costs for things like tuition, room and board, travel, and so on, essentially, all the categories one sees in their financial aid package. They also decide the maximum amount each student can receive in each category. I’m a low-income, first-generation student, and I’m here as an unaccompanied youth, because I’m pretty much homeless when I’m not at Pitzer.
For example, my travel budget is capped at $1,000. I’m from Philadelphia. Flights home and back to Pitzer can be up to $600, if not more, and that’s just the ticket to get on the plane. That doesn’t include checked baggage, possible overweight fees, food while traveling, and more. This forces me to only be able to go home once a school year. It’s hard to be stuck on campus when almost everyone else is able to go home and be with their families.
Another example of financial aid not meeting the realistic needs of the students; on the cost of attendance for the 2022-2023 year, Pitzer put the off-campus renting amount at $14,996. The cheapest apartment within a good range of Pitzer’s campus is $1,975 a month for rent. Spread out over the ten months a year we’re in school, the amount listed on the cost of attendance won’t even cover all the months in which we are here. This means students will have to find a way to pay rent and utilities, buy food, and still have enough money for emergencies.
For wealthier students, the cost of rent may be less of an issue, but what about students who rely heavily on financial aid? The students who can’t afford to pay $2,000 a month in rent on top of the other living expenses? With financial aid being capped so unrealistically, Pitzer is basically throwing these students to the wolves and giving them the finger. And while there are housing vouchers and programs that can benefit students, they typically are super damn hard to get into.
I think it’s time to consider changing the laws and systems that are involved with getting Pitzer students financial aid. It’s time to stop thinking about numbers and statistics and how we portray Pitzer to prospective students, and worry about the students who came here based on the false promises we were fed and ultimately believed. Pitzer tokenizes it’s POC, showing how “diverse” the campus is, and how they accept a modicum of students. But being a POC at this institution means not having enough professors or students who look like you, microaggressions, and lack of equal opportunity.
At what point do we start giving our students the things they need to succeed in postsecondary education? At what point do we drop the facade of being socially responsible and engaged with the student body and actively strive to uphold those tenets Pitzer is supposed to stand for?