Show Me the Money: Excessive Spending at Tulane and the Expectation to Pay Up

Like many private universities across the country, Tulane has a disproportionately high amount of wealthy students within its student body. With a tuition that costs over 60k per year, it makes sense that most Tulane students come from families that are very well-off. This is one of the reasons that Tulane can feel like such a bubble, especially in the city of New Orleans. But how can that bubble be popped?

Spending money seems to be the most popular sport at Tulane, and just like athletics, spending feels like a competition. What brand are you wearing? How often are you going out to eat? How expensive of a Spring break trip are you able to go on? Tulane is competitive enough academically, yet this aura of financial competition persists.

Many students at Tulane are able to spend freely because they’re spending their parent’s money instead of their own. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and every family’s financial situation is different, it’s essential that we don’t simply assume that everyone is getting an allowance from their parent’s each week – because they aren’t. Many Tulane students pay for various college expenses, including tuition, out of their own pocket. Yet the social expectation to spend often shields us from this truth.

Not everyone can drop 2,000 dollars on a Senior-year Vegas trip without thinking twice about it. Not everyone can casually spend fifty bucks on a night out eating and drinking with friends multiple times per week or per month, and not everyone can survive paying for college expenses without a job.

I recently started working as a hostess at La Casita, and when I mention it to my friends at Tulane, the response is often, “aw, good for you!” But why is getting a part-time job during college seen as a heroic act that needs to be pitied? It seems rare for Tulane students to have to work part-time, but at a public university, not doing so may be seen as taboo.

So, what can we do, at all of our various positions on the financial spectrum, to change this financial climate at Tulane? Here are a few suggestions that may help.

  1. Be aware of the questions you ask others.

If a friend mentions, for example, that they may not be able to go on a Spring break trip with you, don’t simply jump to asking “why wouldn’t you?” I’m sure they would love more than anything to go on the trip, but if they have to pay for the plane ticket, housing, and additional travel expenses with their own money, then they may have to opt out.

  1.  Spend time with your college friends in environments that don’t require excessive spending.

Instead of going out to a nice restaurant with expensive drinks, go to a reasonably priced BYOB restaurant that is walking distance and doesn’t require an Uber, invite everyone over for a potluck dinner, or have a picnic at The Fly.

  1. Find ways to catch up with friends one-on-one other than going out to eat.

It’s almost an expectation (maybe more for girls) that if you haven’t seen a good friend in awhile, you accept the “let’s get lunch!” invitation. But instead of spending 20 bucks on a meal, you could go to Bruff or the LBC using your meal plan money, take a long walk as a study break, or just go over to a friends house at night and catch up.

  1. Always offer an alternative option.

When you make plans with friends, always provide a less expensive alternative in case it’s something they can’t afford or just don’t want to spend the money on. On the other hand, if a friend asks you to embark on a pricy plan, don’t be afraid to offer a second option that meets your needs.

  1. Be honest.

You don’t have to fall into the social pressures of spending, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed to say that an activity isn’t within your budget. Once you do, then that friend and potentially others are reminded to be mindful of topics surrounding money.

Both Freshman and Sophomore year I spent much more money than I needed, wanted, or could even afford to spend. At the end of the school year, I stared at my bank account with frustration; the financial competition at Tulane is contagious, and I caught the virus. But we all can try and stop spreading this social expectation, and share some more understanding instead.

COVER GRAPHIC: Vicky Novak

About Nicole Kaplan

Nicole Kaplan draws inspiration from her semester spent studying in Amsterdam. This senior from Chicago loves laying in Audubon Park, reading a good book, and cooking her famous chicken fajitas.

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