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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Njaa: End Unnecessary Financial Barriers to Student Life

Campus is plagued with monopoly power and unnecessary expenses, harming student life and campus equity.

In many aspects, Dartmouth culture is one of a kind in its ability to bring students of all backgrounds together and form a true community. While this in itself is undeniably incredible, such a diverse student body is inevitably going to have wealth gaps. For the most part, Dartmouth is working to address the wealth gap appropriately — seen recently in the elimination of laundry service fees and Good Samaritan Policy fees. However, the College still has a ways to go towards making the campus environment more equitable. As a freshman, I have been made most aware of this by the exorbitant prices for the Dartmouth Coach and the Ledyard canoe and kayak rentals, which represent both a necessary service — the Dartmouth Coach — and a leisure service, Ledyard water rentals. While these two examples are different, together they demonstrate how monopoly power in our campus’s secluded environment causes lower income students to be priced out of both necessary and leisure services and activities. 

The Dartmouth Coach connects our remote campus to the outside world at a steep price. Students commonly use the Dartmouth Coach to commute to Boston Logan Airport or New York City. Round trip coach tickets to Boston and New York City cost $70 and $178, respectively. Comparatively, a roundtrip from Burlington to New York City — over twice as long as a trip from Hanover to Boston and slightly longer than a trip from Boston to New York City — go for as low as about $108. Because Dartmouth Coach is the only viable transportation option, it gains extreme monopoly power. To lower income students, this pricing makes travel inaccessible, as in addition to the coach tickets, students likely must buy either a plane ticket or a taxi ride. Furthermore, it makes the idea of a day trip — for possible job interviews or even just leisure — a significant expense. Part of the reality of going to Dartmouth is the inconvenient location and limited means of transportation. Due to this, students without their own car have no other option than to travel through the Dartmouth Coach despite its high prices. Dartmouth Coach therefore takes advantage of the student body’s disproportionately large affluent population by setting excessive prices at the expense of the student body’s lower income population. 

However, the College has little influence over the Dartmouth Coach, as it is owned and operated by Concord Coach Lines. Therefore, Dartmouth should approach this issue with solutions for the short and long term horizon. In the short term, the College could better subsidize students’ Dartmouth Coach tickets. The College could allot students a limited number of discounted tickets per term or require students to submit requests stating their reason to travel to then receive discounted tickets. If Dartmouth pursued a long term approach to lowering ticket prices, the College could provide students with other means of transportation itself or through a partnership with local government, which would create competition for the Dartmouth Coach and force them to lower their ticket prices. All of these options to subsidize or lower transportation costs would be a positive change on campus appreciated by all students.

While I do not consider the high prices of the Ledyard water sport rentals to be as prevalent of an issue, it nonetheless demonstrates how students may be priced out of leisure activities on campus. I personally have not rented Ledyard canoes or kayaks because the hourly rental rates are too expensive — especially considering that I would want to kayak or canoe for 2-3 hours. Kayaks are $10 per hour, canoes are $20 per hour, and clipper canoes are $30 per hour. These rates are quite pricey compared to other campus activities. For example, the Alumni Gymnasium offers — free of charge — courts, racquets and balls necessary to play pickleball, tennis, racquetball and basketball — all for which, outside of the Dartmouth campus, would rent for similar rates to the Ledyard kayaks and canoes. Perhaps this is an unfair comparison given that Ledyard is a club while the Alumni Gym is fully funded by the college. However, Dartmouth could further subsidize the Ledyard Club, which would allow the club to lower the canoe rentals, or, alternatively, the College could offer canoes and kayaks just as it offers tennis racquets and basketballs. A reduction in rental prices would make a fun kayak or canoe day much more affordable for Dartmouth students and allow the student body to take further advantage of the Connecticut River. 

Similar to the Dartmouth Coach, the Ledyard Club operates autonomously from the College, making prices difficult for the College to reduce. Money the Ledyard Club earns from kayak and canoe rentals goes towards club operations — equipment maintenance, trips and activities. 

Due to this, the College must approach reducing the costs delicately, as a reduced rental price would result in a major loss of revenue for the club. The most practical approach would be for the College to increase the funding of the club by an amount equivalent to the revenue earned from water sports rentals. This approach would allow the club to reduce rental costs while maintaining the same operational budget.

A cost reduction of on-campus services — such as Dartmouth Coach or Ledyard Club rentals — is feasible and would benefit the entire student body. Students would welcome to campus any efforts to make near-monopolized services more affordable, as it would make the campus a more equitable environment. 

Our recently inaugurated President Sian Leah Beilock has already made great progress towards lowering financial barriers for student life. But because student equity is still one of the most prevalent issues on campus, I am hopeful that President Beilock will continue to address the issue as such. With a new chapter of Dartmouth now unfolding under President Beilock, I hope that we may see the overall elimination of unnecessary and exorbitant student expenses and a transition to a more equitable campus life.

Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.