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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, January 21, 2022
The hidden cost of an education

Lorenzo Zemella/The Daily Cardinal

The hidden cost of an education

UW-Madison junior James Richardson scoffed when he checked his bank statement after he paid his last tuition bill. He found a total of $4 left in his account. Although frustrated with his depleted funds, he managed to muster a smile.

""At least I didn't get charged an overdraft fee,"" he said.

But tuition isn't all of it, he explained.

""It's all the other little expenses that you forget to account for, added onto the big expenses like tuition and housing that make going to school so expensive.""

With costs building up, students are left wondering how much an education really costs. The UW-Madison website for finances estimates around $21,500 a year for students paying in-state tuition. But, all things considered, that number may not cover it.

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During the winter months, students lug their clothes and equipment through ice and snow, only to find there are no free places to lock their bags at the gym. The cost to bypass this inconvenience is $20 for an athletic locker. Although a small expense comparatively, athletic lockers are just one of the many expenses that chip away at a student's paycheck.

These fees do not just target the athletically inclined. In fact, it doesn't seem to discriminate whatsoever. UW-Madison junior Tucker recalls paying $50 for his music locker and another $90 for access to his practice room. Both expenses are mandatory for him and his fellow music students.

""The additional price is irritating,"" says Tucker. ""It seems that the tuition bill should cover some of these expenses.""

Professor of chemistry and co-author of several college textbooks Paul Treichel has seen firsthand the costs of college rise exponentially. Much has changed since he attended UW as an undergraduate. Treichel recalls paying $60 for his first college chemistry book while living off $100 a month.

""Of course those were different times, but I had to make a lot of hard choices,"" he said.

Treichel said that with these steep costs, students should consider living a more frugal life as well.

""I am surprised by how many students have no hesitation to go out and spend large amounts of money on recreation—drinking beer on the weekends and buying the newest electronic equipment,"" Treichel said.

Although perplexed by the lavish amounts of money some students spend on partying, Treichel admits certain types of expensive spending are often unavoidable. He blamed the bookstores for the high prices students are forced to pay for textbooks.

According to Treichel, some of the problem in textbook prices is the resale market, which turns into a scam.

""The bookstores make more on the resells than on the new books,"" he said. ""It's not because there are more books, it is that they [the bookstores] have a very low price that they pay and a very big markup when they sell [the textbooks] used.""

This, he said, is nothing new to students who know the book circulation system leaves the middleman with the cash and students with the bill.

Students find themselves coping with skyrocketing expenses and money scams woven into the system. According to UW-Madison freshmen Calli Thompson, it's about responsibility and detailed planning.

Thompson uses a budgeting program on her computer so she can plan her budget for the entire year. Knowing exactly where she spends her money helps her allocate funds efficiently.

UW-Madison freshman Deidre Conocholli always puts more of her paycheck into savings than into her checking plan, but explains despite her tight budget, she doesn't let money limitations prevent her from doing the things that are important to her.

""Traveling and studying abroad, I feel, are very important for me to be a well-rounded, balanced student,"" she said. ""The most important thing to remember is it isn't impossible to do the things you want to do, you just need to designate an account where you set aside money each month for those things.""

Students also encounter the cost of receiving little money from the bookstore when selling their books back because the particular book version has been upgraded and gone out of print. Professor of art history Barbara Buenger expressed regret about the added financial burden of upgrading textbook versions, but touched on the benefits upgraded books offer students.

She explained that the printing revolution of digitalization has allowed the intricate details of textbook illustrations to be sharper than ever.

""It almost makes me want to discard my older books—now we can see so much more than before.""

But when the hefty price outweighs the benefits of an upgraded text, the Internet helps art students find material for lower prices.

Despite the financial stresses of going to school, Buenger encouraged nothing but determination in her students.

""We all know we are in severely troubled times, but this is your time to be at the university, and you have to find the means to accomplish everything you want in these years.""

Professor of consumer science Lydia Zepeda understands the financial burdens students are forced to cope with everyday. In an effort to ease these burdens, she chooses paperbacks whenever possible and selects books that will be interesting and valuable to her students. She wants to make sure their initial investment for her class is worthwhile, thus ideally eliminating the re-sell gimmick entirely.

She also tries not to upgrade editions. ""It's easier for me and the students to have a book with which I am familiar.""

Despite her strategic money management, Thompson is not thrilled with the system.

""The government should pay more [of students' expenses] so that students aren't burdened with loans years after graduating from college,"" Thompson said.

""After all, the government should be encouraging kids to go to school, not charging them with years of debt.""



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