Phillips Academy is a school that meets 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial needs in terms of tuition. While this is an amazing feat for an independent high school, the school still needs to take many steps towards providing complete demonstrated care to their low-income students, such as myself. Outside of tuition, students on campus have needs that aren’t met, simply because “it’s not a part their scholarship.” When life happens and students have sudden needs, the school fails to take actions and often leaves students to figure out ways to survive on their own. Andover doesn’t recognize their lower-income students as people with human needs, and in turn disallows them from fiscally enjoying their time here.
A clear example that comes to mind is the laundry system Andover has in place. Students are given two options for laundry. E&R, a laundry service that does students’ laundry for them, and the laundry machines in dorms, which require students to purchase their own laundry card and wash their clothes. While the basement laundry option is generally cheaper than E&R, it still costs money to do your laundry. It also isn’t covered in most scholarships, meaning that students still have to find a way to pay for laundry. This is certainly ironic, as the school claims to cover 100 percent of need, but doesn’t cover any of a student’s laundry needs. Even students who receive a stipend from the school, which is supposed to be completely used for a student’s wants on campus, receive no help to cover laundry costs. While this might seem minor to most, many students acknowledge that laundry at the school adds up quickly, even if it is generally cheaper than the E&R option. The idea that a school that claims to care for all students’ demonstrated need, is leaving lower-income students to pay for their own laundry, is absurd.
While not as obvious as the monetary pressure laundry puts on students, there is certainly social pressure from better-off friends. Many times, students will ask each other to go downtown and participate in other events that cost money. While it is important to include and appreciate others regardless of social class, to show ignorance to the presence of people from other classes creates a stigma regarding a students’ ability to express that they are of a different class outside the norm. The effect is highlighted by the open access students have to the downtown area. With so many shops open to students so close to campus, there’s just about a guarantee that students will find excitement in heading to shops and spending some money with their friends. While the financial office does claim to help by giving some students 25 dollars a week for wants, 25 dollars is simply not enough for students to sustain themselves at this school. When UBurger meals cost around 15 dollars to 20 dollars — and there are restaurants that serve food well over 25 dollars — it is safe to say that stipend does not allow students to venture downtown, at least not without watching their friends spend money they don’t have.
Every Friday, Andover’s PSPA also comes together to sell Andover gear at their Campus Closet. With a beautiful selection of clothing designed to let students represent their true blue, it also functions as another space that haunts students of lower incomes. While most get to appreciate their school colors without worry, some students find problems in buying any of these pieces. What connects this problem to the school failure is that it’s quite easy to provide extra support to buy new clothing. The school has given money before to support students in buying clothes, but there seems to be a problem when students want clothes that represent their school. Outside of school sponsored clothes, Andover’s financial aid office fails to contribute to students’ clothing needs during the summer. While the office did give out a bit of money to support students during the Winter, there has not been any sign of support for new shorts, shirts, and other clothes.
The school has worked hard to make this campus a safer place for students of lower incomes. It’s important to recognize that the school does try to make campus a financially accessible place. However, this doesn’t mean that their work is done. There are many holes in Andover’s steps to become an inclusive place, all of which start by re-examining how the school identifies and treats their students of lower income. The problems faced by students of lower incomes are also the problems of a wider community, and when that wider community works to make this campus an equitable place, it becomes something everyone benefits from. Even students hailing from the top ten percent of earners benefit from an equal community where everyone can enjoy the same opportunities.