I’ve learned to attribute many of the good outcomes in my life to luck. Of course, it’s some luck and mostly hard work, but I’ve learned as a working class college student at an elite school, that hard work can get you a lot of places, but not always to the places you deserve. There are many identities that I cannot speak for, but being a low-income student is an identity that I’ve always wanted to express, but it is also an identity that many people are uncomfortable talking about.
College has always been a place that values learning above all else, but I often question if the “above all else” part is always true. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve benefited immensely from my college education, especially as a Study of Women and Gender major, where class is often an issue discussed in classroom settings. However, it is the application of this knowledge that colleges and all large businesses fear. I have been taught over and over again that there are ways to fight an unfair class system, but every aspect of my college career has tried to prove this wrong.
Higher education takes for granted how much that $5.00 in printing or that $200 dollar textbook costs not only in financial tolls, but also in emotional ones as well. For students that are working students and whose parents don’t necessarily help them pay for college, there is still disadvantage after disadvantage that we have to face. I want to say getting through these four years of college and somehow making it financially possible has made me stronger, but it has only made me aware of the limitations I will most likely have throughout my entire life.
Recently, as a senior, I have been told I need to apply for jobs all over the country, or even the world, but when I tell people I will either be getting a job here in the Pioneer Valley or back home they always tell me I am limiting myself. I’ve never been brave enough to tell them what I have learned from those many hours of course work: my socio-economic class is what limits me. I would love to think about all the possibilities that lie out there in the world, but my very college itself has taught me that this is blatantly untrue. The one thing I would like to hear when I tell people that I am a poor college student isn’t how strong I’ve been, it’s maybe we should do something about that. Maybe we should make college less of a business and more what it was always supposed to be: a place of higher education, not higher social class.