Summer at Columbia is quite a magical experience. People are no longer sad, cold, or longing for the day they can actually exit their cramped dwellings and venture out into the exciting world of New York City. They emerge on bikes in flamingo-patterned cotton dresses and embroidered shorts, listening to new and old summertime releases. On campus, the dead Bacchanal grass has finally been replaced by multimillion-dollar lush green, and flowers—ones that you might have forgotten exist—are in full bloom.
Long story short, summer in the city is an undeniable luxury.
However, living on campus over the summer has opened my eyes to a glaring inequity:summer classes. Figures upward of $1,000 per credit potentially bar the 50% of students on financial aid from not only partaking in the NYC summer fun, but also optimizing their time at Columbia.
My financial aid package does not cover summer classes, and I have spoken to friends who have told me the same. On the Columbia summer funding page, we are told to take out loans for summer courses—the very things our financial aid packages are supposed to mitigate.
I hear stories of students finishing major requirements during the summer, when courses are often (as some would say) easier and always shorter, so that they can enroll in more adventurous classes during the regular school year and take greater part in extracurriculars. Not to mention—like I haven’t twice already—we live in New York City! The opportunities at our doorstep far surpass those in most of our hometowns. Taking summer classes enables us to embrace these options outside of the school year,—as we can more easily balance courses and an internship, job, or volunteer position.
During the winter months, it is notably difficult to go outside and explore. We have to limit the length of our excursions for practical weather reasons, especially those of us from Florida. Summer is a great time to immerse ourselves in the city’s plethora of cultural offerings, whether we attend Free Shakespeare in the Park, visit a dance exhibition at the High Line, stop in Washington Square Park to overpay for a painting from a former Columbia professor, or watch street performers hilariously single out white men to flip themselves over.
Summer classes allow us to fall in love all over again with the city we chose to be in a few years ago. Not a month goes by that I do not see an op-ed hating Columbia, and New York City by association. While I understand that both have some pretty distinct drawbacks (one more than the other, ahem, Columbia), I feel that a love for the city can only come from truly living within it. It’s not called Columbia University in the City of New York for nothing.
Admittedly, the same argument could be made for applying for research position funding or a summer internship. However, we often compete for these positions with students who either come home for the summer or just want to capitalize on the internships that we have access to year-round. Thus, by interning during the year, we can create long-lasting relationships with employers because we simply have the time that others don’t. Also, summer classes allow us to to free up slots during the school year for non-required classes or extracurriculars, while summer internships would not.
In essence, funding needs to be made more accessible so that every Columbian has a chance to stay in New York over the summer if they so choose. I propose to add a summer course scholarship to our existing list of funding programs. Students can share their course plans and financial aid statuses with scholarship deciders and have the chance to make a strong case to receive funding. In this, we can make the process selective enough so that students who plan to take an unreasonable amount of classes over the summer aren’t able to take advantage of the system.
We need to rethink summer classes so that every student at Columbia can fully utilize both this city and this school. We will be more in control of what and when we learn, while engaging in experiences that help us step outside the Columbia bubble and shape us into the people we came here to become—deeply educated and lusting for life.
The author is a sophomore at Columbia College, an opinion associate, and a Chipotle connoisseur™ who can tell you exactly how to optimize your burrito. Yes, she also likes authentic Mexican food and knows there is a huge difference between the two. If you have questions, comments, concerns, or would just like to chat about Chipotle, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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