I often feel paralyzed by money when I’m on campus. As a first-year, I’m on the Premium Meal Plan which allows me to eat all of my meals in the dining halls. I have $75 in my JumboCash account each semester which is just enough to do my laundry. But what about exploring Boston? What about all the restaurants in Cambridge that I want to try? What about taking the T to study at the Boston Public Library? At Tufts, I feel a certain amount of guilt every time I swipe my CharlieCard. Every dollar I spend seems to chip away at my peace of mind. Financial accessibility doesn’t just manifest as a monetary issue; it manifests as a pervasive issue of psychological guilt when off campus.
The total Tufts cost of attendance is $76,200 for the 2019–20 academic year and continues to increase every year. With such a hefty price tag, I have a hard time coming to grips with spending any extra money. Tufts covers my basic meal and laundry needs, so why should I spend? But basic on-campus needs are only half the battle of the college experience. It is unsustainable for me to be on campus all week, all weekend, all month and all semester. I don’t want that. Still, my desire to fully take care of myself by getting off campus is impeded by the guilt that comes with the Tufts price tag. Tufts can do better in encouraging students to go off campus.
Enacting comprehensive support for students to explore our local surroundings begins with the means to do so. With the MBTA Green Line extending up to College Avenue by December 2021, Tufts must offer subsidized public transportation to all students. Tufts currently offers a prepaid semester T pass (for four months) for $320, which includes unlimited travel by subway and local bus. For students to get their money’s worth on this pass, they would have to ride the subway at least 133 times or the local bus at least 188 times in those four months. Tufts does not subsidize the pass, leaving students to front the complete $320 on their own. This discounted pass is a plausible option for students who use public transit to get to a daily job or internship, but there remains a void in Tufts’s support for students who want to get off campus less often for recreational purposes.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology — just four stops away on the Red Line — offers a 50% subsidy for student MBTA passes, allowing students to purchase a monthly LinkPass for $45. With the advent of the Green Line at Tufts by the end of 2021, Tufts should offer a similar program for its students. A subsidized T-pass program would encourage students to explore their off-campus environment and lessen students’ additional expenses. Getting off campus should not bear guilt for students; Tufts can act to alleviate students’ financial burdens by subsidizing public transportation costs.