Lower-income students may struggle with "success costs"

March 27, 2015

For many lower-income students, the cost of attending university doesn’t end with tuition and textbooks; there are also “success costs,” which are much more difficult to quantify, writes Alyssia Fogarty for University Affairs. Success costs, Fogarty says, include the price of engaging socially in a discipline, whether by attending an event, joining an academic organization, or paying for food and drinks at social gatherings. Success costs can also include the loss of income or opportunity that comes when students lack the time to earn a living wage while participating in extracurricular or volunteer activities. "Being socially familiar with your classmates grants you more confidence to speak up in class discussions, offer critical commentary and opposing perspectives, participate in study groups, and collaborate on additional projects,” Fogarty argues. Not having the time available to volunteer or participate in club activities can put low-income students at a disadvantage when applying for some scholarships and awards. Fogarty argues that institutions must work to identify success costs that affect the potential of lower-income students, and then make them part of the conversation about the overall cost of an education. University Affairs