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Student Union releases financial survey results

Results from the Student Finance’s Survey were sent out to the Brandeis community, reporting discontent and confusion with the financial aid process and expressing students’ desire for more transparency in university finances. Representatives Grady Ward ’16 and Emily Conrad ’17 sent out the survey results, including their own analysis and suggestions for how the university should proceed in light of the diversity of financial problems students face.

The survey, sent out in early October, asked students several questions about their financial situations, including what kind of aid they receive from Brandeis, their experiences with the Office of Financial Services, and relationship between stress and quality of life and financial burden.  

The report was presented to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Oct. 27 who plan on discussing it at the meeting in January.

“Students consistently express gratitude for the support that they do receive,” they wrote, “and are constantly mystified as to how our education must be as expensive as it is.”

Ward compiled a report titled “Student Financial Perceptions and Experience: Emerging Issues and Student Concerns at Brandeis University,” included in their email to the student body. They wrote in the report’s introduction about students’ attitude towards university spending and the cost of their education.

“Undergraduate students are increasingly concerned about the cost of their education across all socioeconomic backgrounds and financial backgrounds. Full-pay students, students from middle class families and less affluent students all share frustrations about the direction and acceleration of the cost of attendance,” the email stated.

Conrad and Ward conveyed that many students “feel that their tuition is not being spent appropriately.”

The Student Union received 769 valid responses to their survey, representing about one-fifth of the undergraduate population. Of these students, 55.8 percent receive need-based financial aid, and 70.8 percent anticipate graduating with debt.

To alleviate debt and otherwise reduce financial burden, many students have taken on-campus jobs, become Community Advisors (CAs) in order to get free housing, and moved off-campus. These efforts, however, have frequently resulted in students losing money received in financial aid, a source of frustration for many.

Ward and Conrad wrote “CAs (Community Advisors—RAs) are compensated for their work with a free room. It is one of the most sought after jobs on campus, and demands 20+ hrs/week of emotionally demanding work. CAs on financial aid regularly see it dramatically cut the year that they become a CA.”

Many students expressed their frustration with financial aid in the survey’s comments section. The comments that were included in the report spoke to the stress that the high cost of education puts on students. These comments were released anonymously to protect the identity of students.

“I’m pissed. I won’t give [Brandeis] another f*****g cent when I leave this financial nightmare,” one student said when asked about the possibility of donating to Brandeis after graduation.

Conrad and Ward offered multiple suggestions at the end of their report, encouraging the university to take steps to alleviate financial burden and make education at Brandeis available to all qualified students regardless of socioeconomic status. They suggested that the university raise their campus wage rate to 11 dollars from nine, a move they said would have little cost for Brandeis.

They asked that the university “pursue a different model to higher education, one with fewer luxury services, higher educational quality and an academic view toward student experience.” The highest priority should be providing a world-class education, not providing expensive housing or other similar things.
Ward and Conrad expressed their hope that “this discussion can steer Brandeis’ present reality back toward its proud tradition of being an educational space designed to broaden access to elite education, rather than allowing ourselves to participate in an erosion of the accessibility of higher education.”

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