Ripoff American Universities Deserve No Sympathy


Perhaps the only area in which America manages to exceed Ireland in terms of being a rip-off is in its education sector, which is one of the most prohibitively expensive in the world.

Going to university in America is a ferociously expensive endeavor. It’s almost beyond dispute that this situation leaves a lot to be desired. Education, as a catalyst for social progression, should be as open to the population as possible. This of course, would be achieved by charing as little as possible for tuition there, yet in America this obviously isn't the case.

Yet even when you’ve managed to get within the university system, by paying the massive six-digit tuition fees, extortion still abounds.

Having just had the not so distinct pleasure of spending four weeks in one of NYU’s two unair-conditioned dorms I've had a firsthand insight into the "ripoff" NYU culture which I'd heard so much about.

The first negative thing that struck me as a foreign student in an NYU dorm was the constant - seemingly unending - threats of "judicial consequences" for any actions which NYU frowned upon. Every comminuqué from NYU ends with a salutary reminder of just what you have to do to face the dreaded "judicial consequences". The threats are laughable, though.

A few weeks into my stay I lost my room key. I was told that the replacement fee would be $100. As this figure was wildly out of synch with my expectations I asked my friends if this were indeed the correct figure. Good thing I asked - the cost was $25. After three days of futile efforts to try resist paying the fee I finally tore down the A4 sign that showed the cost to be $25 for the key in question. Did I get an apology? Hardly; this could result in "judicial consequences" I was told.

Yet this was just one of many incidents.

The lower-end NYU dorms don't have air conditions or let you bring them in. When temperatures soar to triple digits, as they did this summer, that's pretty hard going. Yet imagine being asked to turn off your fans in the midst of a heatwave? That's precisely what happened:

During the heatwave an email from the Residence Hall Director implored residents to use their fans as little as possible, then went on to note that: "Portable A/C units are not allowed at Rubin (the dorm building). Our electrical system cannot handle the power levels these units require. Please be aware that having one is an actual policy violation.” Judicial consequences again, then. So much for concern!

There are plenty of other ways in which NYU seeks to make a dime at your naivete. The dining halls - which you're forced to use at least 7 times a week, if staying in NYU accommodation - close at 8PM weekdays and don't even open on weekends. Considering that you're forced into spending at least $70 a week on a meal plan, these hours couldn't be much more inconvenient. Consider finishing your internship at 6:30 then trying to commute home and rush over there in time. Trust me, it's not easy.

And what happens if you want to cancel the meal plan? You loose everything. Unspent money falls straight into the surely bountiful coffers of NYU. The whole place reeks of extortion and judicial consequences.

I'm sure - in fact I know - that NYU is a magnificent institution of learning. Yet however nice its campus, however great its teaching, and however stellar its research, the least it can do is to treat its paying students with respect and without constant threats of lawsuits for tearing down signs. That kind of business does nobody any favors.

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