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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Weighing the costs of grad school

    Being a college student is expensive, and it’s progressively costing more: The cost of being a student has gone up 1,120 percent over the last 30 years, according to an August Bloomberg report. It’s harder, now more than ever, just to maintain the cost of acquiring an undergraduate degree.

    But what about those extra costs associated with trying to educate yourself beyond college graduation? November marks the time of year when many seniors are starting to have to shell out even more money for graduate school application fees and the standardized tests that many schools require.

    The fact that any student has to pay these fees is garbage — tests get a pass only because someone has to pay the people making and grading them, and they can serve as a good measuring stick for schools.

    Application fees, though, no longer serve a purpose. As an outsider, it’s almost impossible to determine why the fees exist in the first place. Searching variations of “why do graduate colleges charge application fees?” on Google yields nothing informative.

    Now, a lack of results from a Google search doesn’t mean the answer doesn’t exist, but in a society where important information is often immediately accessible, isn’t the lack of transparency concerning?

    According to Andrew Carnie, the UA’s dean of the graduate college, there are a good many reasons graduate school application fees exist.

    “Processing an application to the Grad College is not a cheap proposition,” Carnie said in an email. “There are many costs that the institution must bear when a student applies, particularly in light of the shrinking state support, which means that we have to find alternative measures to meet the graduate enterprise’s financial demands.”

    Carnie lists costs such as maintaining the online servers that host the application, both from a computer equipment standpoint and a personnel one. There is also a database that stores all applications, Carnie said, which is quite costly. Lastly, the people who help applicants throughout the process have to be compensated for their work somehow.

    “These expenses have to be paid for, so we direct those costs to the applicants because they are the people who benefit from the services we provide,” Carnie added.

    Carnie brings up a good point — schools do need money to operate and pay faculty and staff, but it shouldn’t be a student’s responsibility to carry so much of the burden. A university isn’t an exclusive night club and it’s certainly not a business: It’s a place for people to learn.

    Despite that though, universities are adopting a more business-like approach in an effort to increase funds, according to a June article by the Huffington Post. That’s not so much a university’s fault though, as officials there will do what’s necessary to keep the doors open.

    The point is, however, that students should be paying as little for higher education as possible, and if schools are so desperate for money they need to look elsewhere than the already emptying pockets of students and their guardians.

    Having to turn to students for money is the fault of another institution though. As Carnie said, as the state government supports universities less, schools have to look elsewhere for money.

    I understand that state governments are stretched thin financially too, and since I’m not an economist I don’t know of a good solution so that everyone wins. The state really should be giving universities more money, but that’s another column altogether.

    Fortunately, at least for those applying to the UA’s graduate programs, Carnie said the university is on the low end of the financial spectrum for graduate schools applications, and that the prices haven’t gone up in years. It’s a start, but still not quite satisfactory.

    All I know is students pay enough for education as it is, and they damn well shouldn’t have to pay for any more than they have to, especially if they’re only trying to further their education.

    Whether the state needs to have stronger support for education or universities need to find another method of raising funds, graduate school applications shouldn’t cost students anything but time.

    — Jason Krell is the copy chief for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @Jason_Krell .

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