By Ülvi Gitaliyev
Along with much of the U.S. economy, Berea College students have begun suffering from inflated prices in their cost of attendance. For some students, the price increase is manageable, but many have had to take out loans or leave the college entirely. The Berea Torch investigated how this was impacting the average student and possible solutions the college could take.
According to the latest statistics from The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, the cost for attendance in Berea College this academic year is $44,300. For reference, it was $42,900 last year (2021-2022 Fact Book), which is an increase of $1,400 over the previous semester. When we analyze the numbers individually, the biggest spikes can be found in housing and meals. For example, housing costs went up from $3,886 to $4,002 and meals went up from $3,598 to $3,740 dollars. This is all on top of the smaller price increases in the Campus Activities Fee and the Technology Fee, not to mention the rising price of books and other materials necessary to students.
In Berea College, it is the Financial Aid Office that is in charge of handling Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculations and giving out loans. On both these fronts, The Berea Torch received complaints from students. One student specifically said that the college tried to argue that their EFC had gone up by $10,000 and that the EFC was lowered only after more than a dozen visits to the Financial Aid Office. Another student, whose EFC is reportedly at $0, claimed that they had to pay almost $1,000 in their term bills, but Financial Aid did not allow more them to take out more than $200 in loans, because of the aforementioned EFC.
The Berea Torch spoke with a staff member of Financial Aid who said that your EFC does indeed influence how much you can take out in loans, but there are also other factors at play, such as your summer savings. Students were encouraged to discuss their financial situation with Financial Aid in order to get specific numbers when it came to loans. A common complaint among students is the fact that the Financial Aid Office moves slowly -too slowly. A possible reason for this is because there are about six staff members in the office, while this semester, hundreds of students have had to deal with a higher term bill.
Currently, there is a lack of communication between the Financial Aid Office and some students of Berea College. Many students suffer from the unexpected cost increase, and in some cases, there is a lack of consideration for individual cases of students who have been negatively impacted and faced with a high term bill that they are unable to afford. The loss of any student for financial reasons represents a failure for the College and its Great Commitments. If the problem is not handled soon, then the very promise of Berea College will be at stake.