The Case of the Missing $43,000

According to Colgate’s website, the estimated cost of attending the university for the 2005-2006 academic year is $43,000. As I sit and ponder this staggering figure, I can’t help but ask: where the hell does all of this money go? Though many students qualify for financial aid and do not pay the full ticket price, there are still many of us who do have to shoulder that big load. Aside from tuition, Colgate likes to find clever ways to hit our wallets even more, by imposing ridiculous parking fines, charging unfair food prices and skimping on services that students value like the Budget Allocations Committee and Intramural Sports funds.

As a member of the Ski Club, I’ll be heading up to Whiteface with some of my buddies to hit the slopes this weekend. However, I was stunned to find out that if we want to borrow one of Colgate’s vans, we have to fork over $230. Gas prices are high, but they’re not that high. I always thought that the vans were available for student groups at no charge, except for maybe fuel, simply as a service provided by the university.

As an avid participant in intramural sports, one of the largest activities at Colgate, I’m dismayed to see the dreadful condition of our equipment. The red and yellow colored jerseys teams use are in such bad shape, they look like they’d be better suited as dishrags in my kitchen. The basketballs are flat and the softballs are misshapen. I love intramural sports and I know that many other students do as well, and that is why the administration needs to allocate more funds for the program.

I’ve noticed penny pinching going on in my classes as well. In one of my courses, my professor considered asking students to chip in a few dollars to help pay for photocopying expenses (to our delight the course documents were put on blackboard, eliminating this expense). But seriously, photocopies? A school that charges over $43,000 a year to attend is splitting hairs over photocopies? A faculty member shouldn’t have to worry about going over his or her department’s paper quota. After all, we’re not talking about high-tech equipment here; we’re talking about paper.

I live in the New York City metro area, so I know a thing or two about pricey food. I always thought that good food is usually more expensive then bad food. However, this rule does not apply to Colgate. The Coop regularly sells its pre-packaged wraps at almost 5 bucks a pop – and let me say, these are not gourmet quality. Meanwhile, downtown, you can get a half sub at Roger’s – where the food is actually fresh – for less money.

The meal plan is a huge waste of money. Unfortunately the university cons all freshman and sophomore to be on it – but juniors and seniors ought to know better. I’m tired of the bureaucratic excuses the administration puts forth – that somehow the prices on campus are reasonable. I’ve also heard the lame excuse that if the food prices were too low on campus the business downtown would suffer tremendously. For this to occur, Colgate would actually have to produce high quaility food, which it does not.

At 43 grand a year, students have the right to demand quality service. After all we are the consumers. We pay Colgate for our degrees, intellectual development, social interpersonal enrichment and quality education. I’m astounded by some of the way Colgate spends our money. In an effort to refine the look of our campus, the univeristy spends countless dollars on aesthetics. If Colgate cuts back on its extensive landscaping and gardening to cut some of our tuition bill, I doubt anyone would gripe. If Colgate decides to take the money collected in parking fines and put it towards BAC funding, I’m all for that.

It comes down to priorities. Colgate does a fantastic job bringing in quality professors into an environment where meaningful interactions with students occur on a daily basis. This does not happen at all universities. However, Colgate does a poor job prioritizing its funds. I see this every time I put on my tattered, sweat stinking, intramural jersey. I see this when I am ticketed for $35 at the Coop, after spending $7.50 on a loafer and a large Coke.

I see this in our buildings. Upstairs in the study section of the O’Connor Campus Center sits the massive fireplace that allegedly cost the school tens of thousands of dollars, yet does not emit any warmth and just looks like an eyesore. Downstairs, in the Colgate Mail Center, is a long-neglected room in dire need of repair. If you’ve been unlucky enough to step foot in the mail center, you would know that it’s like taking a step back into the 1950s. The space is cramped, the technology is woefully inadequate and if you ask me, I would have rather seen that fireplace money go to our friends in their underfunded mailroom.

Colgate doesn’t need a LASR system or a spiffy fireplace. We need more funds for student groups. We need better equipment for our IM sports. We need fewer parking fines. But most of all, we the students, need to know that our $43,000 is being used wisely.