With an annual price of $ 50,240 for tuition and fees, $ 69,712 for state students living on campus, and an average financial aid of $ 17,000, some Emerson students are resorting to the GoFundMe online crowdfunding platform to pay for their education.
Due to the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused record unemployment, administrators have encouraged students to apply for CARES law funds and other emergency grants, or visit the pantry located inside the Student Success Office. However, some students say that is not enough to shoulder their financial burden as the college continues to raise tuition fees.
Jeanie Thompson, a first year in visual and media arts production, created his GoFundMe on August 18, 2020, to help pay the price for Emerson’s life.
“Right now, I’m a low-income student with very, very limited financial resources,” Thompson’s GoFundMe bio read. “Although I have received a few gracious academic scholarships from Emerson that reflect my education, accommodation and food are expensive and unfortunately not included in my aid. This is my biggest financial burden as I transition to campus life for the fall semester.
With her mother struggling to find work, Thompson said she and her mother, who worked in higher education as an assistant professor at Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and Morgan State. University, lived on her mother’s savings throughout high school.
“My mom and I moved around a lot because we were finally at the end of her savings,” Thompson said in an interview with The Beacon. “My father lives overseas, comes from Barbados and worked overseas. There wasn’t much he could do to take out a loan, [and] my mom’s credit was completely crushed because she was living off her savings, so I couldn’t even do Parent PLUS loans, or get private loans, [which are usually the only options] when you apply to college.
Thompson said she contacted Emerson’s financial aid office after her acceptance and was awarded Restricted Scholarships, which are individual or endowment funds created by alumni and donors who support students. in need, as well as an increase in its federal loans in addition to scholarships. she had before. About 75 percent of Emerson’s students receive some kind of financial aid to help pay for their education, according to the Financial Aid Office website.
Thompson, who hit her GoFundMe goal of $ 1,500 in September shortly after arriving on campus, said she wrote personal notes to her donors to express her gratitude and share what their money will help her accomplish during his stay in Emerson.
Thompson added that she thinks the Financial Aid Office needs to advocate more for low-income students.
” Just because [some] people can pay for this education doesn’t mean everyone should be left out because they can’t afford it, ”said Thompson.
Financial Aid Director Angela Grant was unavailable for The Beacon’s request for comment.
Thompson said the amount of debt imposed on families by colleges and other higher education institutions was reckless given the pandemic, with many students ignoring the resources available to them.
“Especially in the midst of this COVID situation, it’s a little insensitive to impose so much debt on people whose parents aren’t working or have single jobs,” Thompson said. “Emerson has to advertise whatever kind of financial resources he has. “
Emily and Bettsy Winkeller, both VMA majors in first year, also used GoFundMe as a means of supporting their education.
“Even before COVID-19… and everyone out of work, we had plans to create a GoFundMe to help with the expenses of the girls,” said the mother of the twins, Lydia Winkeller, who launched the campaign on their behalf. “Things are tough everywhere, but with five out of six of us on leave or unemployed, things are particularly tough for us. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not too proud to ask for help anymore. , especially when it’s for my kids.
Accumulating more than $ 7,000 in donations, the twins said the motivation for starting the fund was their disappointment with the financial support given to each of them by the college.
“We’re twins and we go to the same school for equal amounts of money,” Besty Winkeller said. “We’re paying double the amount, and it’s really hard to be financially able to pay for that.”
With their GoFundMe, the Winkellers contacted the Office of Financial Aid in an attempt to secure Stafford Loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans, which, unbeknownst to them, had already been granted at the start of the fall semester. Their total aid amounted to $ 40,000 each.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve given me the maximum amount already, but by contacting them I’ve just confirmed that I’m definitely getting the loan,” Betsy Winkeller said.
Thompson said GoFundMe was one avenue she would use again, if necessary, to cover future bills.
“When I created the GoFundMe I was a little embarrassed, I don’t know why, I guess you don’t want to ask people who are also struggling to donate, which weighed on me during this process, ”Thompson said. “I don’t think I should have to sacrifice my education because of my financial situation, especially as a person of color. I can’t let money, of all things, something completely arbitrary, make me give up what I really want to do in life, which is cinema.