OPINION: Pitzer has an economic segregation problem

Pitzer College has a drastic issue of economic inequality. 

According to a report released by The New York Times a few years ago, Pitzer ranks as having one of the highest concentrations of students in the top one percent and .01 percent in the country.

It is impossible that students across the country who match our core values of social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement and environmental sustainability happen to all come solely from this elite and exclusive economic niche.

However, most of Pitzer’s annual operating budget comes from yearly tuition. 

This means that we are incredibly dependent on students who pay full tuition. Moreover, Pitzer is not a need-blind institution, meaning that the office of admissions has to make concessions when choosing applicants.

The lack of financial aid hurts Pitzer substantially. Every year, we have to deny incredible applicants who display virtues of activism based on our core values for less qualified individuals who can pay full tuition.

Even worse, many accepted applicants have to choose other institutions (including other Claremont Colleges) because Pitzer cannot offer them enough financial aid. I knew one individual who, deciding between Pitzer and Stanford University (preferring Pitzer) had to choose the latter because of better financial aid. 

Of course, this is an issue for many small liberal arts colleges across the country. And as we enter a COVID-19 induced recession that already is having a disastrous impact on the world, Pitzer’s lack of economic diversity will become even worse.

Current and future students at Pitzer will need more aid. For the next few years, Pitzer will have to depend on wealthy full-paying students even more.

But, this dependence is avoidable. We are privileged to have such a small tight-knit community of students, faculty and staff who all are immensely passionate about this issue. We have a plethora of successful alumni and parents. 

For all of us who love Pitzer so much, we must endeavor to raise money for financial aid in all possible manners. To ensure a truly need-blind Pitzer College, we must raise hundreds of millions of dollars — a daunting task.

But being need-blind is a beneficial trickle-down effect that touches every part of the college, which is why this issue must be prioritized.

Economic diversity is important to a well-rounded liberal arts education. We learn from those who are most unlike us, and in a small school environment that is composed so fully of the upper echelons of the American aristocracy, we lose so much by having so little diversity. 

As members of this community, we all have an obligation to address this issue, as it affects every single aspect of our institution every single day. Together, we must embark on an aggressive, ambitious and substantial fundraising campaign so we can ensure that Pitzer is a school that truly represents activist core values of the country, not just those of the virtue signaling elite.

Though it may be a difficult task, other small liberal arts colleges have raised money before, and with our powerful community, we can too. 

Colby College embarked on their “Dare Northward” campaign a few years ago and has already raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Similarly, another liberal arts college, St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico embarked on a “philanthropy-centric” fundraising campaign, raising $200 million.

Given the high concentration of wealth that many Pitzer families have, the college is uniquely positioned to engage in a similar endeavor.

If Pitzer raises more money, the college will be able to drastically increase our financial aid and merit scholarships to attract students who truly exemplify our core values.

We all are here because we care about and love Pitzer. A more economically diverse Pitzer changes the conversations we have in seminars, the debates we have as a community and the lenses through which we observe and understand the world. 

Coincidently, while writing this article, I asked a friend about a prospective student I had met a while back that I knew had had a strong desire to attend Pitzer. I was yet again disappointed and frustrated with the all-too-common response that she attended another institution because “Pitzer didn’t give her enough money but she really wanted to come here.”

These are trying times for Pitzer and the world. With an energized effort bringing together the entire Pitzer community, we can ensure that the college emerges from this crisis stronger and more financially equitable than before. 

Noah Gabor PZ ’23 is from Santa Fe, New Mexico. When he’s not hiking with his dog Waffles, you can find him eating Hatch chile.

Facebook Comments