I am a poor college student. My family and I can barely afford Cornell University. I work in a dining hall to make ends meet. What dismayed me even more was how I realized Cornell is really a big business that sells us education and knowledge at very high prices, instead of the academic haven it claimed to be.

At the start of this semester, I had to buy a whole new set of books for all my new classes. Remembering the killing of my bank account last semester after one trip to the campus store, I asked my parents for a bit of extra money, just in case.

However, my Fall '99 math class (Math 293 - Differential Equations and Vectots) used a book called "Fundamentals of Differential Equations", published by Addison-Wesley. My new class, Math 294 (how did you guess?), is on matrix algebra, and it uses that book as well. Excellent, I thought.

To my horror, they published a new edition, and it costs $20 more than before. The new price is over $90. And the book is not even thick (500 pages, for math that is nothing). Ack! There goes a big chunk of my money.

Next, electrical engineering. $130?!? With an extra CD aid. OK, fine, I have to buy it anyways. So I shelled out another significant] fraction of my bank balance. Turned out the "study guide" was a useless demo, the real software costs $100.

The lab manual for Physics 214 (Waves, Optics and Particles) was around 80 pages of photocopied material. $30. My account is dead. The $100 my parents gave me helped, but it disappeared in the blink of an eye (courtesy of Addison-Wesley and the Cornell campus store).

That is just the books. Food? Well I get it for free because I work in a kitchen. Otherwise, it is $1500 a semester for sub-par nourishment. Housing? $5000, for very bad dorms (my room is half the size of my old room at home, and my room wasn't big since we were not rich). Pile it all up, and that is one heck of a bill I owe to the good people at the bursar office up in administration. I think I was charged $130 for skeet shooting. How much does a box of shells cost?

Everything costs money. A lot of money. Most of the fees are blatant day-light robberies. My entire floor is about to be fined $60 each, because someone made a mess and no one admitted to it. I didn't do it! I can't afford this!

Maybe it is just Cornell, being the rich school that it is. Most of the bills go straight back home and the parents pay it. My deal is different. I pay my own bills. If they are going to charge me so much, at least they could provide proportionately high quality education and facilities. But they don't.

I need this degree to move on in life. But by the time I get it, I will be so far in debt I would have to spend years paying it off.

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