Johnny De Vito is doing everything right. Three years ago he was accepted to New York University, and even given a significant scholarship. He earned a spot in the honors political science program. Through college, he’s juggled a job at an airline consultant firm with courses and a role in his fraternity, and excelled at each. This year, he’s studying for his LSAT. He’ll finish his senior thesis in March. If he graduates in May, he’ll be the first person in his family with a degree. From there, he’ll go straight to law school.
Of course, that’s if he graduates. De Vito’s fall semester bill is for $12,157, and is due today. By May, even with his scholarship, he’ll be just shy of $80,000 in debt. Every dollar he’s worked for, he says, has gone to his tuition.
“I’m a first generation college student who has worked every year to pay for his own,” he says. “My parents can’t really help me. “
Still, De Vito is drowning in red. So, last week, decided to do something about it.
HELP, he typed on a sheet of paper and taped to a light pole in Washington Square Park. Please consider giving me advice or encouragement as I figure out how to pay for the first semester of my senior year.
Attached to the note his account statement.
“Honestly, I really just wanted to start, or at least expand the conversation about debt,” De Vito says. “On a more selfish level, it is incredible difficult to try to find the money and have to do it by the 8th of August.”
Still, a lot of people have reached out to him, with advice or consolation. He’s not the only NYU student struggling with the financial strain.
This week, Newsweek released a list of the 25 least affordable colleges based on average debt, total cost, financial aid, and future earnings. NYU ranked as the fourth least affordable college in the country. (Last year, Business Insider made a similar top 10 list. NYU ranked sixth.)
“I thought about transferring before,” De Vito allows. “I don’t think anyone should have to settle for anything short of their dreams because of money. I don’t think that holds true to being an equal opportunity society.”
Of course, this isn’t an equal opportunity society, and especially not at an institution where the average price for a 2012 on-campus student is $58,858. The school has also seen a 3.8 percent tuition bump from last year, at least partially caused by the NYU 2031 expansion plan.
“I admire that the university and the university president [John Sexton] have a lot of ambition for the university,” De Vito says. “I know that one day, that ambition could make my degree worth even more. But I feel like that ambition may be overreaching right now.”
NYU’s plan to expand into Greenwich Village was just approved by city council, amid protests from Village residents, some students and hundreds of NYU faculty.
“I can’t see myself ever saying I want to give back to NYU,” De Vito says. And maybe he won’t. But he’s got a couple bridges to cross before that.
“The spring bills are due in November.”