Some of the most impactful educational experiences take place outside of the classroom and away from campus.
These experiences provide the opportunity for hands-on learning and practical application of skills and knowledge obtained through classroom learning.
However, these opportunities often come at a cost. In general, most institutions, including Shippensburg University, use a reimbursement system to cover expenses associated with these experiences. This means that a student will be asked to cover the cost of the activity and then will later be reimbursed for that amount. At first, glance this system seems acceptable as the student will receive the full amount of money back eventually. In reality though, this system perpetuates inequality and can have lasting impacts on the financial wellbeing of students.
To illustrate this, consider the example of an upcoming research conference trip I will be taking. The cost for student registration totals $303. This trip presents an incredible opportunity to share my research findings and network with professionals in the field.
Under the reimbursement system, I am required to pay this fee initially. This system rests on the assumption that students have the financial means to make this payment. In reality, this total is more than some students have in their entire bank account and may take weeks to earn through on-campus employment.
Making this payment could leave students without the means to afford necessities. The second problem with this system builds upon the first. A student must then submit their receipt and then wait, sometimes weeks, to get reimbursed. For a student with little to no income, this would mean carrying this financial burden with them over an extended period of time.
Now, a student may be going several weeks not being able to afford necessities just so they can try and pursue their educational goals. On top of this, it must be noted that this system does not impact all students equally.
Students who may be struggling the most to afford these fees are the ones with the least amount of access to those that may be able to help them. These students sometimes are also the least willing to ask for help out of fear of being viewed as a burden.
The system needs to change to enable more students to take advantage of more opportunities.
If a university has decided to cover the cost of something, why not do it upfront? Universities are much better suited to take on this financial burden than students, so they need to do it.
Students deserve the ability to achieve their goals without depleting their bank accounts.