Debt Again

by Jamie Bedrin | 11/12/96 6:00am

My last Visa bill included various charges for books, both from Wheelock Books and the Dartmouth Bookstore. It totaled over $220. "Two hundred dollars," I thought to myself, "There goes a few of my drill instructor pay checks."

This is not the first time at Dartmouth that my books have cost that much. In fact, it is usually the rule and not the exception. When I was standing in line at Wheelock Books I watched a young man whip out his Visa card to pay for his $80 calculus book. How disgusting!

I realize that with Ivy League classes comes the need for quality textbooks. But is there a point at which I have the right to stop and challenge the cost of my books? My housing? Or my tuition for that matter?

My parents always raised me to believe that there are certain things in life -- like health, for example -- to which we absolutely cannot attach a price tag. I grew up thinking that things like books and food were precious and that I should respect them. It wasn't as if my mother said that my $10 book was more important than my $5 book, instead she wanted me to appreciate the value of the book, a beginning step in educating and enjoying myself and my imagination. My grandparents never liked us to play with our food because they wanted me to realize that as a child they didn't always have surplus food with which to play. I like that my family instilled these values in me and I hope to share them with my children some day.

So now I am at Dartmouth and am very confused about what my parents have taught me and what I have witnessed here. My point goes deeper than just Dartmouth; technically speaking it is aimed at the United States Government. I want the government to help us subsidize our education, our health costs including our books and our flu shots.

Why are so many people going into debt to pay for their children's education? I know that my friends and their parents who are in debt choose to be in debt so that they can give their children a superior education, and I believe that these same parents would do the same if their children were sick and needed a rare but costly bone marrow operation. It is not the decision to go into debt that confuses me, it is the fact that they have had to make that choice that makes me angry.

I know that Dartmouth is need-blind in its admission process and that approximately 50 percent of students are on some form of financial aid. I am proud of those facts. But if we truly value our education, if we honestly want to provide every student with the opportunity to attend a school like Dartmouth, then we need to make it more affordable now.

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