If you thought you were done with standardized testing the day you got your sweet, sweet Binghamton University acceptance letter printed on watermarked stationery and boasting President Harvey Stenger’s signature, you were wrong. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but if you’re looking to pursue education beyond your bachelor’s degree, you’ve barely even begun. And it’s likely you’ll want to — 85 percent of Binghamton University students have enrolled in a graduate or professional program within six months of graduation.
Although 5.9 percent of occupations require education above a bachelor’s degree at the outset, the jobs that do are the higher-paying jobs, and thus inspire many to pursue them. However, the exams required in order to apply to graduate schools are extremely costly and often dissuade students from applying, if not outright prevent them from doing so due to lack of funds.
At the very least, those pursuing further education are set up to take the GRE graduate school entry exam. This is comparable to the SAT. It’s a general admission exam and you have to take it to be considered for acceptance. Most schools have a particular threshold for their score, and if you don’t meet their criteria, which is only sometimes disclosed, your application will go directly into the paper shredder. The GRE costs $205. Assuming you get the score that will get you into the school you’ve been dreaming of on your first try, that’s over $200 just to get your foot in the door.
Depending on the program and type of school you want to attend, there may be additional testing required. All the future lawyers in BU’s undergraduate population will need to take the LSAT, the law school aptitude test. This exam costs $180 — a bargain compared to other postgraduate tests. Future business master’s students will be taking the GMAT for admission to postgraduate business and management programs, weighing in at $250. Future doctors have the MCAT medical school admission exam to look forward to, which will pose a $310 blow to their wallets.
It doesn’t end there. A student is expected to pay fees for the physical applications sent, expenses to send standardized test scores (above a certain number), travel costs associated with visits and interviews and much more. Additionally, medical schools may look at your credit scores, potentially deferring admittance pending the resolution of credit issues. Not only do you need to pay an arm and a leg for the chance of being accepted, but you have to somehow avoid going into debt doing so.
And then you have to actually pay for graduate school.
You may, at this point, be banging your head against the nearest wall. I agree, this process is ridiculous; with all of the financial obstacles, it’s a miracle anyone decides to go to graduate school. It is difficult for students to justify continuing their education, and thus plunging themselves into debt, when they can enter the workforce as is and begin earning money to pay off already accumulated debt. We are told that the only way to get anywhere in life is to get an education, but then when we try, we are plummeted into lifelong debt. Society needs lawyers, businesspeople and doctors. It wouldn’t function without them. All qualified students should be able to attend graduate school — not just the wealthy ones.
The high costs of graduate school and college in general play into the inherent class system in the United States. Those who are facing poverty cannot afford higher education, cannot obtain high-paying jobs and thus continue to struggle financially, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. While sometimes fee waivers are available for these exams, they are often difficult to obtain and are not available to enough people. The process for getting them should be simplified and the income bracket for qualification should be broadened.
Walt Disney told us that “all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” But courage can’t foot our dream’s bills. There needs to be real change in the payment system for education at all levels. Fee waivers should be more readily available and entrance exam costs should be lessened or paid for by the graduate schools who are necessitating them. Requiring students to pay the astronomical costs of education is not sustainable. As the costs of fees and tuition rise, the numbers of students enrolled and applying will fall. It’s time to reconsider the financial burdens placed on students and make a change.
Jessica Gutowitz is an undeclared freshman.