College is expensive. That’s a reality most families have to face as their children beginning applying. There has been heavy discussion this year about the rising cost of many universities in our country; however, there has been close to no discussion about another factor that may affect possible applicants — the cost of the application itself.
Most universities require it and the University of California system is no different. Most students apply to at least eight schools their senior year, and for most in California some of those eight are going to be UCs. Without waiver fees, an applicant to one of these colleges must pay seventy dollars just to submit their application, plus an additional twelve dollars to send SAT or ACT scores. These fees add up quickly, with the total cost to apply to eight UC’s costing 656 dollars. For comparison, a single parent working forty hours a week on California’s minimum wage only makes 400 dollars a week.
Now with waiver fees, a lower income applicant can be exempt from some of this cost. The SAT does not require a fee if you qualify for a number of aid programs in either your school or for the state. It rapidly becomes more complicated within the UC system. The UC’s require an online application on which you provide your family’s income and the number of people supported by that income. Along with this additional application system, it can be used for only four UC’s, anything above and you must pay an additional 70 dollars. If you qualify for both waivers, it costs 280 dollars for the same amount of applications. This effectively removes a huge deterrent for many lower-income applicants; however, with this system there are also some flaws. While it does reach students who are the most affected by these steep application costs, it misses a large group of people that, while not eligible for fee waivers, still are affected by the costs. This group may include the lower middle class where 656 dollars may not place them on thin ice but is a cause for alarm and hesitation. A more effective method is to loosen the requirements for fee waivers to allow a wider range of applicants to receive them. While it would limit the amount of aid a college can give an individual family, it would remove enough of the cost that the stress of costs would be relieved for many more. The issue lies in the expense and not the distribution of aid. Stanford University, one of the most sought after colleges in the country, costs 90 dollars to apply. According to U.S. News & World, the average cost of application fees are the highest on average in the past five years.
The fact that it costs money to apply to our public institutions in this country is wrong. This points to a much larger issue in our country’s colleges regarding price. However, that’s a much larger issue that needs to be addressed. Making waivers for application fees more accessible is the first step of many in order to make college more accessible to all.