Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The high price of classism

The idea that the University of Massachusetts Amherst is an inferior institution is not a new one; our “zoomass” and “safety school” reputation has been prevalent since my father was here in the ‘70s. Often the argument against our school is based on the idea that only students who are not intelligent enough to be accepted to other schools would ever consider coming here.

The now infamous Boston Globe article that ran in September featured a student who opted out of UMass, despite the discount price, because she was smart enough, the article implied. Many others have critiqued this article, pointing out the abundance of redeeming features available to us at this lovely school, but it seems that no one is talking about the classism hidden in this type of thinking about public education.

Saying that only students who don’t get in anywhere better come to UMass erases students who cannot afford to go anywhere better.

 The price of UMass is probably it’s best selling point comparatively, but even for in-state students it is still a large sum of money to pay for higher education. Our reputation frames us as not smart enough and not sober enough to make it anywhere else, as if elite private institutions are free from belligerent morons who are only there because their guardians can afford it.

There is nothing wrong with having your parents pay for your education, and there are many students at private institutions that through scholarships, loans and their own salaries are managing to pay their own way. But to say that students who can get in to more elite schools always go there instead of UMass is ignoring that college, even with scholarships and loans, is outrageously expensive and for many young people and their families, a financial impossibility. The ability to go to college at all is an advantage; having the choice to avoid public education in Massachusetts is a privilege.

The message hidden behind the claim that UMass is not a place full of intellectual rigor and incredible opportunity is classist at heart. By making those who cannot afford any other school invisible, we equate them with those who cannot meet the intellectual standards of a “better” school. When someone says that UMass is not good enough it will always be followed with UMass does not have enough money, we’re stupid, we’re drunks, and we’re poor.  This representation is elitist and irresponsible and ultimately lazy.

Its a much easier sell to talk about the pretty blond girl featured in the Globe article, who looks down on UMass because her parents can send her elsewhere than it is to talk about the many brilliant students here who are suffering because of increased budget cuts due to a state government and taxpayers who don’t care about us. There is a fear of accusing the state government of failure, and yet it runs rampant in every state funded project, from the Big Dig, to the new greenway, to the tiny, isolated ICA –

an incredible missed opportunity. But even more difficult is to accuse the privileged people of Massachusetts of apathy. But such stories would be , a word I would not use to describe the Boston Globe. It seems like even a human-interest piece would be a step in the right direction that is not being taken. I’ve never seen front page coverage about a student at community college that is making it work, or a young person who can’t go to school because they have to work full time to support his or her self. If these people were smart enough, if we were all smart enough, we wouldn’t be in this situation, right?

While there are all kinds of blame to hand around for why our school suffers financially while other public institutions flourish, articles like that in the Globe perpetuate a classist attitude that is seen across the state in every vote against more money for public education.  UMass is an institution full of problems on every level; there is no ignoring it. But if the media continues to highlight the upper class views of UMass instead of featuring the stories of students who are making every overpriced day of their higher education count, attitudes towards our school will never change.

Perpetuating the myth of lower class inferiority will mean less money coming in from donors who wish to support an excellent university and will scare away students who could be great assets to our community, but instead are given the opportunity to attend some place else.  A higher education, no matter the place, is an incredible opportunity at an often-crippling cost. Only when we acknowledge our classist attitudes can we begin to repair our public education system, making state school an appealing and attainable option for everyone.

Victoria Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    JanOct 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you for speaking up about the great educational opportunities, faculty, research, and quality social scene at UMass. As the parent of an out-of-state student, I am thoroughly pleased with the education my son is getting at this university. There are so many opportunities for growth – intellectually, personally, socially – and I do find it unfortunate that the Boston media doesn’t see fit to look further at UMass. The article perpetuated views I’ve heard from parents and young people in the state – these views are outdated and ignorant. I hope that over time the state legislature will start to see things differently and provide the funding necessary to continue all that is great about UMass.

  • M

    Man with a monocleOct 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm


    You are a marksman at pointing out the obvious.

    Good show sir.

  • C

    ChesterfieldOct 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm


  • A

    AcaciaOct 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    My boyfriend could have gone to an Ivy League if he wanted to, with his high school accomplishments. But UMass gave him such a big scholarship that he didn’t even apply anywhere else.

  • S

    SomeoneOct 8, 2010 at 7:09 am

    I applied to 9 schools when I was looking at colleges.

    I was accepted to all 9.

    Had scholarships to every school except the 2 state schools I applied to UMass (out-of-state) and a SUNY school(NY).

    I chose UMass. I loved everything about it. It seemed to have more opportunities than some of the others.

    To say that UMass isn’t as good as other schools is absurd. I had a 3.5 GPA in highschool, and UMass was a mild reach for me, even though the other 8 were just as competitive. We are intelligent and not of a lower class, and to see how people are painting UMass as low class is disheartening.