This piece is part of a series of financial aid-focused student profiles. These student stories are part of our ongoing reporting on financial aid. You can also read our analysis of a student survey about financial aid and our reports on the financial aid Day of Action and subsequent town hall. 

This M’21 student asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of financial information. Before coming to Minerva, they studied at a good regional college in East Asia, where they paid about $800 U.S. dollars a year in tuition. They didn’t like the high-pressure culture at their first school, however, so they decided to transfer to a U.S. college. 

As an international student, this person expected to pay full tuition at whatever university they chose. Consequently, they looked only at schools with an affordable cost of attendance, like state schools, rather than prestigious private universities. They decided to attend Minerva largely because of the low tuition. 

“My family just makes choices based on what we can afford,” they told the Quest. “[Throughout my childhood], I would go to the best school that we could afford. When I heard Minerva talks about how some people’s families sold their furniture just to send them to a really prestigious school I thought it was mind-blowing.”

“[Throughout my childhood], I would go to the best school that we could afford. When I heard Minerva talks about how some people’s families sold their furniture just to send them to a really prestigious school I thought it was mind-blowing.”

Anonymous M’21 Student

From the beginning, this student expected to pay the full-price of Minerva and decided to not bother with filling out the financial aid application. This student’s family isn’t extremely wealthy; back home, they’d be considered “super middle class.” But they come from a society where it is common for parents to save up large amounts to fund their child’s education, so they could afford to pay the cost of attending Minerva — but not necessarily a more expensive university — out of pocket.

“[After] living with my peers who are on financial aid, I feel like I have it a lot easier than most people because I don’t have as much pressure to get a job in the summer. The only pressure of not getting an internship is that I don’t have professional experience on my resume to get a job in the future. It’s not like I’m super well off, but generally [my financial situation] is ok.”

While they recognize the benefits of their financial situation, this student also said that they sometimes wished they had a work-study position to help pay for daily expenses. This is especially true because they can’t work independently due to their work authorization and because their wages from a job in their home country would be low compared to work-study wages.

“Class and money might not actually align here at Minerva.”

Anonymous M’21 Student

During our interview, this student reflected on the general discrepancy between a student’s socioeconomic class at home, their income and resources, and the purchasing power that translates into in rotation cities because of different costs of living. While their family is middle class in their home country, they might make more money than an upper-class family in another country. Both students might find themselves living a lower-class lifestyle in expensive cities like San Francisco and London. The overall effect, as they said, is that “class and money might not actually align here at Minerva,” adding nuance to conversations about privilege and financial need that is sometimes overlooked.   

Ultimately, this student pointed out, there is as much variation within the 20 percent of Minerva students who don’t receive financial aid as the 80 percent of students who do. “There are a lot of us who are close to getting financial aid but [don’t receive it],” they said. “But there are also people who are super rich, and we’re all in the same category. So there can be a misconception that I’m really rich.”

This student sometimes feels pressured to help their peers from lower-income families and has done so on multiple occasions. They advised younger students who also have relatively comfortable financial situations to keep in mind “everybody has very different lives than you. Money can’t define who you are but it definitely puts a lot of strain on people who have to budget.” No one’s obligated to contribute to others, they said, but if you have the means to do so and feel compelled to help, you should.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences with money and financial aid at Minerva with the Quest, please reach out to Emma Stiefel ([email protected]), Erin Paglione ([email protected]) or any Quest editor.