BY CHLOE JENSEN ’20
As a college student, I understand how every little thing seems to add up during the semester, whether it’s from washing laundry or adding extra Dining Dollars on your OneCard or buying textbooks. With the first week back at Mount Holyoke, I saw many students outraged over the 50 cent price increase in laundry.
The vast majority of these responses are negative; with many of these students very unhappy, and in some cases, even angry that they have to pay an extra 25 cents to wash their clothes and an extra 25 cents to dry their clothes. Many students have stated that this is not just a minor nuisance, but actually hinders them and their college experience. While I too was annoyed about the price hike, having washing machines and dryers that function properly is both an improvement and ultimately a cost.
Last year, Mount Holyoke students asked for better washers and dryers from student life, and they did deliver: I have found that the washers and dryers work better. As many students can attest, in previous years, students used to have to dry their clothes more than once because they were so damp. Furthermore, the washers and dryers have more settings, which means it is much less likely that your clothes will be messed up in the machines.
This week I used the washers and dryers and was very satisfied with the result. I could pick the temperature, the soil and delicate or permanent press washing. My clothes came out like I put them in, and they were very dry. And even though it was a little more expensive, it was much better than having half-damp clothes that I had to dry for another full day.
Many students have falsely claimed that Mount Holyoke charges more than an actual laundromat, however, the typical price for laundromats in the Pioneer Valley area can “easily cost around $4 just to wash” according to Samantha Panikian ’18. Although some colleges in the area have cheaper or free laundry (with Smith College’s laundry costing $1.35 per load and Hampshire’s being free), Mount Holyoke is not cutting us a bad deal with $1.75 to wash and $1.75 to dry.
Some students have advocated for Mount Holyoke College to make laundry free of charge, without raising tuition — and I question how that could happen. Institutions of higher education only have a finite amount of money to spend on resources for students. A large amount of the endowment and other gifts are spent on financial aid, which makes our College more financially accessible in general. Without raising tuition, there is little Mount Holyoke can provide for free.
Last year, I wrote a column about classism both at Mount Holyoke and other elite institutions. I grew up lower middle class, and understand that for many low income students, every dollar counts. At the same time, I also understand that an institution cannot allocate free resources for students all of the time: the funds needed simply do not exist and would not without a raise in tuition. There is an important conversation to have and continue having about how seemingly small costs can hurt low income students in the long run. However, laundry prices are not the only financial burden of low income students, especially when textbooks every semester can cost well over several hundred dollars. Even if laundry were free, low income students would still struggle to pay for their other expenses, which can be much more demanding than an extra 50 cent laundry charge.
Instead of constantly complaining about every little charge throughout the year, students should campaign for helping low-income students with the extra costs in general. Perhaps ask alumni and the administration to help allocate more funds specifically for low income students, and distribute them according to need. And although a 50 cent price hike is annoying and inconvenient, there are better more pressing issues on financial matters at Mount Holyoke.