Emerson College Presents: A Compelling Performance of Inclusiveness
Emerson has a fetish for marginalized communities, but he does not make himself accessible to them. And with such a high price tag, it is impossible for Emerson to achieve the diverse environment he advertises, given his ignorance of systemic disproportionalities in race and wealth.
It’s no secret that much of America’s wealth is distributed disproportionately. The wealth gap in the United States separates socioeconomically marginalized communities from the privileged class. Throughout history, communities that do not fit the “founding father image” are more likely to have low-income status.
Private universities are a perfect case study. In 2017, The New York Times reported that at 38 prestigious—and mostly private—colleges in America, more students came from the top 1% of the income scale than from the bottom 60% combined.
What is Emerson’s place in this? According to the Times, most low-income students in private or selective schools leave their educational institutions and do almost as well as wealthy students. But this is not the case with Emerson. The communities that Emerson not only desperately wants, but also wrongly announces, are simply unable to pay the astronomical price.
A New York Times A survey found that 3.2% of Emerson College’s class of 2013 came from families earning around $20,000 or less a year and only 27% are likely to be in the top 5%. A student of Emerson median income 10 years after graduation is around $50,000 per year, which is disappointing considering the current college tuition of $52,190.
During the 2020-21 academic year, Emerson only met 9.4% need-based financial aid, although 63.3% of students applied for financial aid. About 52% of students took out loans that year, averaging up to $49,924 over four years. according to College Factual. The average debt is close to the average starting salary of Emerson students who earn a bachelor’s degree, costing around $39,000 per year.
Emerson’s high price tag makes the institution virtually inaccessible to people without generational wealth. As a result, students receive a richly tainted experience.
Students come to Emerson as part of a liberal arts education, and we are taught to work as creatives who amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Members of these communities rarely make up more than a small percentage of each class. In 2021, Emerson’s student body was 58% Caucasian, 13% international, 12% Hispanic, 5% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 4% African American, according to the college. website.
The few members of these communities who are at Emerson are often forced to listen to their more privileged peers misanalyze course content like African-American history or gender and sexuality in the Middle East, as they muddle through without any real issue.
These situations are a tangible perpetuation of the exclusion of people of color from creative spaces and coincide with the college’s wealth disparity, highlighted by annual tuition hikes.
Since March 2022, Emerson undergraduate tuition increase and 2% room and board for the 2022-23 academic year. These increases are not new; the college has gradually increased its tuition since the 1980s, resulting in an increase of approximately 56% between 2012 and 2022.
Protests and petitions circulated campus in response to the latest administration uptick, with many students demanding fiscal transparency through an annual public finance meeting, improved financial aid resources, and increased student involvement in financial decisions.
Time and again, these hikes are met with resistance from students, resistance that is ultimately futile. Low-income students are forced to swallow their Emerson pride and pay, largely because the majority of their peers – or their parents –box.
The Times study reported that the median household income of an Emerson student was $147,900 per year. The study also found that 64% of Emerson’s students came from the top 20% earners, with 8.3% from the top 1%.
During the 2018-19 academic year, families earning between $75,000 and $100,000 a year paid the college about $42,458 in net price—the average cost remaining after financial aid—while families earning $30,000 or less paid a net price of $39,241.
Who has the privilege of pursuing creative studies without fear of financial instability? The financially privileged. If you attend a post-secondary institution for creative or communications endeavors, you most likely do so knowing that the road to business or monetary success will be paved with financial instability.
In a school completely rampant with the wealthy, the stakes for success have already fallen only as low as the generational or family cushion creates wealth. Just as the wealthy receive the privilege of attending college or university for a creative passion, they also receive the privilege of mediocrity or academic failure with little financial or social repercussion.
What does it mean to belong to an institution that claims inclusion of all kinds in its publicity and program, but fails to reflect that in its community?
Will Emerson ever put his money where his mouth is and make way for the inclusivity he so boldly advertises? Is it possible for low-income and underrepresented students to level the playing field muddled by privilege?
Many private colleges and universities are asking the same question and trying to create spaces where students other than white and affluent can thrive in prestigious post-secondary institutions.
princeton university has developed a tuition-free college preparatory program for high school students from underrepresented socioeconomic and cultural groups in Mercer County, New Jersey. Students apply in the spring of their freshman year and, once accepted, spend three summers on the Princeton campus preparing for admission and success at selective colleges and universities.
Educational testing service evaluated the Princeton program and found that nearly 70% of program alumni are regular graduates of competitive colleges and universities. According to ETSthe more competitive the college or university, the higher the likelihood that low-income students will graduate and earn higher incomes.
The real question students should be asking is, what resources does Emerson provide to ensure not only admission, but long-term success for underrepresented students?