The Reality of a Rigged System

Allison Dolzonek

More stories from Allison Dolzonek

Thoughts on Spring
February 25, 2016
The Reality of a Rigged System

788: the number of dollars I spent simply APPLYING to graduate programs—and I have currently only applied to four institutions. $200 to take the GRE (and I had to take it twice, so $400, really—but by the standardized tests conversation we’ll save for a rainy day), $27 for each school I send my GRE score to, and then anywhere between $65 and $80 of application fees for each school. This, my friends, is a scam; this is theft in the clearest format; this is a rigged system. And I am angry. And if you’re paying attention, you should be too.

Here’s the deal. I am a fortunate and privileged young woman. I was lucky enough to be born into a family that is financially stable, so I could afford to pay the ridiculous price in order to possibly, maybe, go to graduate school. But I have trouble understanding how young, struggling students from less-fortunate backgrounds are supposed to finance even applying to graduate schools. I understand there are applications for fee waivers for most universities and there are federal programs to finance GREs and that whole process, but how absurd is that? In order to be able to afford to apply to a university, you must first apply to receive financial aid, i.e. your worth as a student is determined before you even apply to an institution.

We preach that education is a cornerstone in our functioning society, that education is the key to a successful future, yet we chastise those that are financially unstable and claim that they don’t work hard enough, don’t want to go to school, or only want to sit and take advantage of our welfare systems. Yes, everyone has the same freedoms to go to school or find a decent job, but there is a clear disparity in freedom of opportunities. There are certain socioeconomic demographics in this country that are not given the same opportunities as others, simply based on the most random circumstance of all: birth. We do not choose where we are born, into what family, into what gender, what ethnicity or race, what sexuality—all of these things are out of our control. But so much of our lives are determined based off of these uncontrollable variables. Because I was born a white woman, into a stable family, and in Northern Alabama, I could afford to finance my education without any qualms or tribulations. Yes, I had to take out some loans, as most students do, but there is absolutely no way I would be here, typing this article on my computer if the circumstances were different and I was economically less fortunate.

So let me be clear: I work hard, I pay for things on my own when I can, I have a job on campus, and I have a banking app to keep track of my money. But I did not earn anything. I do not deserve to be where I am. I did not work to be here. I was afforded certain opportunities because of the hard work of my parents and the absolutely uncontrollable circumstance of my birth. I was born with an outrageous freedom of opportunity, so I can attend school, forward my education, become more employable, and build a better life for myself and my family. Someone born into a different situation does not have the same freedom of opportunity as me and must always work infinitely harder than me to forge a better life. Our system favors those that already have, and demonizes and criminalizes those that do not.

That is the reality of our rigged system.