Verbum Ultimum: The True Cost of Dartmouth

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 3/6/14 8:44pm

Watching a movie at The Hop: $5. Renting Dartmouth Outing Club gear for a weeklong hike: over $100. New member sorority dues: $335 to $647.

As every student knows, the Dartmouth experience extends beyond the classroom. Discussions during office hours bleed into provocative dance performances at the Hopkins Center. Lectures about glacial till are strengthened by DOC trips to the White Mountains. Students and professors bond over the lectures, performances and various other College-facilitated cultural and educational experiences that various centers and performance groups bring to campus.

The cost of a full experience at the College goes beyond tuition, and Dartmouth should devote its resources to ensuring that students from low-income backgrounds can participate fully in all aspects of College life.

Approximately two-thirds of eligible undergraduates are affiliated with a Greek organization. Students who join a Greek organization their sophomore fall and remain affiliated for the rest of their time at the College could end up spending over $2,000 on Greek life before graduation. For a student whose budget may already be stretched thin between the cost of tuition, textbooks and living expenses, this may be an exorbitant amount of money.

Dartmouth is nestled in mountains with beautiful climbs and challenging trails, but the associated costs of exploring the outdoors can block students from participating in valuable learning experiences. The cost of renting a two-person tent, first aid kit, trangia stove, frame pack, sleeping bag and sleeping pad from the DOC for a week could pose a significant financial obstacle.

Starting this spring break, students receiving financial aid from the College who choose to participate in DOC activities that cost more than $10 can apply for funding to cover up to 70 percent of trip and gear expenses. As part of a new three-year pilot program, the President’s Office has designated an annual total of $50,000 to be used for this purpose. This decision is encouraging.

Similarly, the Panhellenic Council’s recent announcement of its plans to collect scholarship funds under its purview for distribution to any member of a Panhell sorority indicates that the Greek system is aware of the class issues inherent in the current dues system.

However, while we commend the President’s Office and Panhell for these actions, we believe the College must go further to accommodate students from low-income backgrounds and ensure they have equal opportunities to participate in all of the activities, academic, extracurricular and cultural, that may enrich their Dartmouth experiences.

Participating in extracurricular activities is time that could be spent working. Students should be able to throw themselves into their extracurriculars, which can clarify future professional pursuits, without feeling like they’re abdicating responsiblity. Outside Hanover, financial aid packages do not cover living expenses during internships, and students studying abroad have limited employment opportunities. Yesterday’s announcement that administrators plan to expand financial aid for foreign study programs is a great start. However, it’s worth considering how other parts of campus could help broaden the net. Extending the number of grants offered by the Tucker Foundation, the Rockefeller Center and the Dickey Center could reduce the pinch students feel when they take unpaid internships.

Dartmouth says its goal is to provide equal educational opportunities for all students. It’s time to make that a reality.