Bold and exciting news came out of New York a week ago with the announcement NYC Medical would award tuition scholarships for all current and future students to cover the entire $55,000 tuition cost. An amazing move which I hope will blaze a trail and set a precedent for other medical schools. It has baffled me for years how institutions like Harvard can sit on an endowment of $37 BILLION and continue to charge $44,990 for undergraduate tuition. Really? Just bite the bullet and say $45,000. You’re not fooling anyone. Granted they bestow high levels of academic aid and scholarship, but there are very few that aren’t graduating without paying thousands along the way, or after as student loans.
The Expenses listed above is from the Annual Announcements of the Women’s Medical College for 1897, the year my main character would have entered. The general admittance ticket equates to a tuition cost, $130 for the year, a cost which may sound like an unbelievable bargain. But, when average annual salaries were only $450, it was beyond the reach of most families, especially to educate a daughter. I read of these struggles in the Annual Announcements pulled for my archival research. Letters from students who wished to attend WMC, but did not have the immediate means. Could the Dean suggest scholarships, or part-time work positions? There were a few scholarships and many students partook in a reduction of $35 by signing up for missionary work after they received their degrees heading out to global outposts as the first female missionary doctors.
Of course, there were still fees tacked on, as there are today. Room and board is separate. WMC had only one housing unit, Briton Hall, which limited the options. Students found available boarding houses on a list provided by the janitor which met the cleanliness standards of the College, with rates of $4.50 – $7.50 per week, nearly as much as tuition. Each of the laboratory studies charged extra fees for use by the students, the use of the reading room cost fifty cents and other fees associated with various materials needed quickly added more hefty sums to the total. I was most intrigued by the $5 deposit required for a student’s Bones box which was refunded at an 80% rate at the end of the term and return of the bones intact.
Addressing how to pay for tuition and fees is a topic of conversation for all families sending children off to College. I’ve pulled from this research and woven it into a few scenes for my novel. It is not an easy conversation and I’m sure caused as much stress in 1897 as it does now in 2018. I’m just thankful we are done with those years, especially when I took a look and saw Lafayette tuition, room & board is just over $68,000 and insanity reigns in Lancaster – Franklin & Marshall at $70,500.
Good luck to all my friends and family sending their kids back to college this week. Maybe you’ll be a lucky one – maybe their college will follow the lead of NYU Medical. Now, that would be a great reason to celebrate!
Sources: Harvard.edu, Harvard University Annual Report, year ending June 2017.