Opinion: College prioritizes construction over students

Written by Diana Bookhardt

Graphic by Hannah Jahosky

I won’t be able to afford my senior year at Rollins. I don’t “earn” enough in merit-based scholarships, my Florida aid decreases every year while tuition increases at the same pace, and I’m already deep in loans.

Over my years here, I’ve seen funds invested into a number of construction projects that have no benefit to students, most recently the renovations to the Campus Center which was previously my primary dining location. At the same time, I’ve seen McKean Hall struggle through lead in its water, and several years of mold issues. 

Witnessing these “investments” leaves myself and others wondering why our ability to afford our higher education is not as important as infrastructure projects on buildings that were not in need of renovation. 

Are there not more viable candidates for Rollins funding than buildings altered solely to be more impressive?

I’ve never grown up knowing money. I chose to go to Rollins because it was affordable. Not that the cost was ever low—it just happened to be the only school I applied to that offered me the greatest percentage of scholarships to tuition. 

Additionally, my grandfather, Jesse “Jack” Bookhardt (‘53), was a music major here and even played casual tennis with Mr. Rogers before his Neighborhood fame.

I must admit, Rollins’ reputation for a great education and sense of community also drew me in, and I thought entering my first year with an Associate of Arts (AA) degree would put me in a better place to graduate in less time and keep my financial losses minimal.

As I found out, life is not a straight line. I switched majors twice and took a semester off following a difficult period of transition and several breakdowns. This left me behind my original schedule financially, as my Bright Futures funds were left diminished by my AA degree and I had lost a scholarship I was receiving from a previous major.

I’ve just returned from my semester leave during Spring ’19 and have been taken under the wing of the Office of Student & Family Care to ensure I’m receiving the mental health support necessary for me to complete my education. But the area where I actually need support is financial. 

My family sits in a lower-middle-class bracket, as do the families of a number of my friends at Rollins. While tuition increases every year, our scholarships do not increase in turn. 

When my Florida aid was not applied following my return to school, the Financial Aid Department was able to apply a large grant to cover the deficit, but I am still left with a balance that I cannot afford. 

If Rollins seeks to support students at a financial disadvantage, as it claims to do, more money could be used in need-based rather than merit-based scholarships, and the rates of need-based scholarships could be increased before more funds are invested in flashy Campus Center renovations.

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