by Valen Lambert
Despite a college degree being the cornerstone of upward mobility, the cost of tuition makes it hard for economically disadvantaged students to climb the ladder. However, financial aid makes an education possible for over half of the California State University system’s student population.
According to CSU’s 2021-2022 Financial Aid Report, 82 percent of students in the Cal State system receive some sort of aid, and nearly 60 percent of all undergraduates have the entire cost of tuition paid for by grants, scholarships, and waivers. At Cal Poly Humboldt State, 72 percent of the student body receives aid. Compare that to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; despite being more expensive, 34 percent of the student body receives aid.
Cal Poly Humboldt’s relatively lower tuition gives students access to a more affordable education, but inflation and proposed tuition increases are impacting students already on the “economic line.” Many have turned to Calfresh and the OhSnap pantry to mitigate food costs, but other expenses pile up.
“Humboldt’s tuition rate based on the financial aid I was offered was a huge reason why I was able to attend college,” said Kayla Penny, senior psychology major. “However, now that tuition is planned to rise and housing prices have gone up, I am left with more stress about being able to continue living in Humboldt as a student”.
Harry Singh, a junior business major, spoke about how he had to work at a hospital throughout the summer to afford the books and supplies he needed for the semester.
“I would put in 70 hours in my last week to make sure my check was able to cover enough throughout the semester,” said Singh. “It is necessary to work, otherwise I wouldn’t have gas money to get here, money for groceries, and other items.”
Many students hold down jobs while taking full-time credits to keep up with the cost of living. Balancing a social life, school, work, sports, and personal time is an overwhelming reality for a majority of the student body.
“Even with financial aid, I have had to take out loans,” said Jasmyn Lemus, a senior sociology major. “I work three jobs to support me while studying. Even with all my side hustles I live paycheck to paycheck. As much as I would like cushion room and extra change to enjoy little activities here and there, it is extremely difficult in this economy.”
Since attending university is a privilege and an expensive venture, students on financial aid can have a hard time relating to peers whose families can pay for the cost of tuition and even rent.
“The way I compare myself to the rest of the student body that may be more financially advantaged than me is not with malice, but with a sense of suspicion that most of those students do not realize how many other students are actually struggling with money,” said Penny.
For many first generation college students, they struggle through the economic differences to come out the other end.
“It makes you feel like an imposter, because you needed so much help and assistance to get here when they were able to go to college simply because their parents were able to afford it,” said Singh.
Lemus believes that everyone should have equal access to an education without having to worry about basic needs.“Education is an investment, however it should never put people in a position where they are needing to sleep in their car or wondering where the next meal will come from,” said Lemus.