How much does a good education really cost?

December 10, 2019

There are multiple ways that money can influence a student’s education: parents legally donating money to universities, rewarding their children for their grades, or investing in a tutor. While parents think that these acts are beneficial to their child, studies show that it can be quite the opposite. 

In 2018, Harvard University received complaints about a“Dean’s Interest List”: a list created by the Dean of Admissions that is comprised of students whose parents donated to the school. Court records reveal that Harvard admitted 42.2% of students on the list, compared to their usual 5.4% acceptance rate. These donations gave them an edge on other applicants, an edge only attainable by the nation’s extremely wealthy. There have been similar occurrences at other universities such as Yale University, Stanford University, and UCLA. 

Parents rewarding their students with money for good grades is also problematic. The New York Times reported that in a study where 25% of students were given rewards for good grades, 90% of the students said that they think their parents will love them more if they have better grades. The incentives can also cause mental health problems like perfectionism, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, as well as feelings of resentment or rejection towards parents. The concept of providing incentives reduces the student’s drive for learning. Rather than learning to become smarter, they learn to earn money; it creates a “what’s in it for me?” mindset. 

The money spent on tutors also increases stress. Globally, private tutoring is a $96 million dollar industry as of the 2017 study by Zion Market Research, but the money might have been better spent elsewhere. A majority of students that receive tutoring feel pressured to earn good grades since their parents invested the money, and they want to make it worth it. The consequences can be issues like high stress and anxiety, but on the other hand, it can give students an improved approach to learning and more confidence in the classroom. Having a tutor can allow a student to work out specific issues and ultimately will benefit their academics, regardless of whether or not it has a negative effect on their mental health. It all comes down to each individual student. It’s also a luxury that not everyone has access to. For those that can’t receive tutoring, they could be facing more stress due to a lack of assistance when they’re left to figure out problems on their own. This once again gives an advantage to wealthier students in the college admissions process. 

Any benefits that come from parents spending money on education is only available to the most fortunate. For those who can’t afford it, they don’t get the opportunity to receive benefits from tutors, providing rewards for grades, or donating to a college; a disadvantage that could be influential on their college admissions. The college admissions process should be based on meritocracy, not on money. These factors can make the already-stressful admissions process even more toxic for the students.

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