Costly postgraduate education promotes classism rather than social mobility

Higher education is an expected privilege for many young adults. Most college-aged individuals can say that they have at least considered continuing their education past their bachelor’s degree. Mulling this over requires students to consider how mentally capable they are of going to school for another two-to-four years and whether they are ready to stop being a student and enter the workforce. On the long list of things to consider regarding what to do after college, the costs of applying for further education should be low on that list. The high combined costs of applying to graduate schools, however, has created a system that favors the rich and takes away the possibility of economic mobility for those who cannot afford it.

For students who live in the United States, taking the GMAT costs $250, the LSAT $170 and the GRE $160. While many universities offer fee waivers to those who cannot afford to apply, there are still many costs that come with applying for grad schools. Applicants are responsible for financing everything; from the books––which can cost between $30-$80––to the study courses they take––between $500-$2,500––to the $30 cost of sending their scores to a single additional school.

All of these costs are undertaken with the risk that should the applicant do poorly on this one exam, they could have to pay these costs again. These costs may seem small individually but when combined, they can be very steep.

Test like the LSATs, GREs and GMATs are not fail-safe tests of intellectual ability. Graduate and professional school tests favor those who have studied the best. Thus, those that do the best on these tests are able to pay for the best test-prep books and courses.

If you cannot afford to spend $2,500 on a test prep course such as one offered by Kaplan or The Princeton Review, then you are already behind. These companies have become so knowledgeable about different entrance exams that they guarantee that their students who take their course will do better than those who do not. Herein lies the inherent inequality of the application system.

People who come from low-income or middle-income households are already fighting a flawed system when they attend universities. They must devote a far greater percentage of their family’s income to their education than those who come from high-income households. Middle-income and low-income students should not be obligated to face these challenges as they apply for graduate and professional degree programs.

In the grand scheme of things, paying a few hundred dollars now should not be a big expense for someone who wants a career that requires further schooling. For a college student, however, a few hundred dollars means a lot, especially for those students who are financially independent. When the costs of preparing for entrance exams are so enormously high that only those who can afford better practice are guaranteed the best results, a corrupt system is created where only the richest can succeed.