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Higher Education is Still Inaccessible

Cheyanne Beaumont | Editor


The transfer process for college students is undoubtedly stressful. There are transcripts, deadlines, program requirements, and more, that compound together into a ball of stress. I was aware it wouldn’t be a piece of cake, but something that surprised me was how the route of “affordable” and “accessible” education is still somewhat unaffordable and inaccessible. How? Through the requirement of modern technology and paywalls. 


A majority of colleges that accept transfer students have online applications. They use services such as the Common Application or have their own application portals. Regardless, the applications require the same thing, an electronic device and an internet connection. These may be things that are considered standard in today’s society, yet they are still luxuries that some struggle to afford. 


In an article on navigating technological challenges, the Pew Research Center reveals that “Americans with lower incomes are especially likely to express concern about broadband and cell phone bills.” While lower-income American households are already under undue stress to keep up with evolving technology, the ability to pay a cell phone bill or internet bill could make or break a student’s ability to apply to transfer schools, adding to academic inaccessibility. 


If an internet connection can be afforded, with or without financial anxiety, there is still the probability of internet connectivity issues. The Pew Research Center says, “These connectivity issues are felt more acutely for certain users – particularly those with lower incomes, Black adults and Hispanic adults.”


In addition to students needing reliable access to technology, a luxury in itself, students then face paywalls from schools. Here at LCCC, to obtain and send copies of your transcript electronically, there is a fee. The fee is applied per transcript, so the more schools a student wants to apply to, the more they have to pay. This may seem insignificant, but sending applications to five schools can cost upwards of thirty dollars, it did for me.


That’s not all, a large portion of colleges and universities that students apply to require application fees.  According to Bestcollege.com, the average application fee for students is $56 per application. Waivers are available depending on personal financial circumstances. But while I had some fees waived through the Common App, I still had to pay for schools outside of the common application. 


As for the affordability of these expenses, the Pew Research Center says, “As a practical matter, the $7.25 federal minimum wage is actually used in just 21 states, which collectively account for about 40% of all U.S. wage and salary workers – roughly 56.5 million people.” Pennsylvania is one of those states. For students who work while in school, it’s more likely they fall under this category or are still considered lower-income despite their hourly wages. 


In an industry where affordability and accessibility are a primary concern, factors like the aforementioned still linger and can cause disparity among students and applicants. While there are efforts made to minimize the disparity, the fact it remains is still problematic. Perhaps, if education was not seen as a vessel of prestige, and instead was primarily concerned with the pure, unadulterated passion of learning and community, disparities like this could be eradicated. Admissions factors would then rely on academic achievement and character alone as most schools market themselves to be already, but unfortunately that cannot be true when situational circumstances prevent this from being a reality. 


Photo Credit:

Photographer: Andrea Piacquadio

Caption: “Woman in Yellow Shirt Writing on White Paper”

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