Career fairs are funny phenomena at Brown. For the past couple of days, nonchalant or otherwise “chill” students have donned business casual garb and paraded down to the Main Green to pursue a consulting, tech or banking offer. While Brown is well-known for being both a liberal and a wealthy campus, events like the Fall 2015 Tech and General Career Fairs illustrate a few of the ideological and practical tensions that exist on our campus. Given the numbers of both low-income and very wealthy students at this school, the sky-high cost of tuition and the different pressures we bring from our families and homes, it is clear that different segments of the student body have very different expectations of what a Brown degree — and their lives after Brown — will offer.
President Christina Paxson P’19 previously told The Herald that the middle 50 percent of the student body comes from families that earn between $100,000 and $200,000. In other words, only a quarter of students on this campus come from families that earn under six figures. It is of note that only 21.9 percent of American households earned over $100,000 in 2014, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The fact that the rich and wealthy are overwhelmingly overrepresented at Brown is not shocking — this has been true for all of Brown’s history. It is, however, important to note how much the wealthy are willing to pay for a Brown degree — all without having a surefire guarantee about the value of that degree. In turn, this places a pressure on many students — particularly those from the upper-middle and upper income brackets — to maximize their profits after college.
Of course, it is important to recognize that many low-income students share similar concerns, sometimes even aiming to sustain not only themselves but also their extended families. But there is no doubt that many of the resume-handing, suit-donning students in the tents on the Main Green were richer students, eager to ensure that they pursue careers that allow them to maintain their affluence.
Even though Brown’s tuition has been increasing for years and is the highest it has ever been, students seem relatively complacent about the state of their education. Sure, students often complain that they could have better advisers or dorms, but the last major student-led Brown revolution happened in the 1960s with the creation of the New Curriculum. Marginalized students often rally for significant changes — need-blind admission, better handling of sexual assault, divestments — but by and large, the majority of campus seems unwilling to challenge or demand more from Brown. Maybe this is a good thing and implies that the majority of students are happy on this campus, or perhaps it suggests that our overwhelmingly rich campus understands that Brown is but a small step toward a life of building and maintaining wealth.
Students pursue different pathways after Brown for various reasons, but it is important to reflect on how our different pressures, expectations and influences before, during and after Brown impact what opportunities we feel we need to attain. We wish all students the best of luck on whatever career paths they pick after Brown, but it is important to consider how these differences impact how we view ourselves, Brown and what we hope to get out of it.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Meghan Holloway ’16, and its members, Emma Axelrod ’18, Noah Fitzgerel ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.