Commentary / Education / Race

The Exclusionary Existence of the GRE

Note: This was written a few months ago. I thought it was already on this blog, but I guess I was wrong? Anyway, though I’ve changed my mind about grad school for the time being, I still think that this is a post worth sharing with you all. Enjoy!

For the last few months, maybe more, I’ve been tossing around the idea of going to grad school. After finishing undergrad I experienced the all-too-common feeling of never wanting to attend an academic institution ever again, but I’ve changed my mind. As much as I love learning outside of school, as much as I love choosing my topic of study, I truly miss the structure of formal education. I miss deadlines and the specificity of essay writing and other assignments. This may sound strange to some, but I know I have friends who have also experienced this feeling of being lost without the institution of academia.

 

At first the struggle was figuring out what to go to school for, but I’ve finally decided that African American Studies is what I’m truly passionate about at this point in my life, and is an area of study that I think will benefit me not only intellectually, but also emotionally (there will be other posts explaining this). My next, and biggest hurdle, is actually getting into a school. I’ve done my research regarding what schools have the best programs and have also taken into account where I would like to be geographically (which is more where I absolutely DO NOT want to be in the country). And that brings us to the GRE.

 

The GRE is a standardized test measuring “verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing” according to ets.com. It’s often used as part of the admissions process for graduate and business school. So think of it as the ACT or SAT for big kid school.

Now, I have a lot of issues with standardized testing in general, but those issues play a very small part in my internalized loathing of the GRE. So what is it that I hate so much about this test? It’s the price tag.

 

Taking the GRE costs $200 PER ATTEMPT.

 

I know there are people who can, somewhere in their budget and brain, find a place to justify spending $200 to take a test. I am not one of those people. In fact, I would argue that this figure makes the GRE not only classist, but when taking into account the average income levels of people of different races, it also makes this test inherently racist. And I know that may sound extreme some, if not many, people, but hear me out.

 

According to a study published by the EPI in 2015, Asian and White households are (unsurprisingly to me) at the top of the list where Hispanic and African Americans are at the bottom (by close to half the average income). These numbers come to absolutely no surprise to me, but factor heavily into my feelings about the cost of getting into higher education.

 

We live in a society that tells us, time and time again, that the key to success is education, and yet, we live in a country (or rather some of live in a country [the U.S]) where Black women are one of the most educated groups and are the lowest earners. Not only that, but we also live in a country where at test is $200 before even factoring in the application costs and possible relocation costs and tuition or attending higher ed. If you’re on the low end of that income scale and want to go to grad school, $200 is a lot of money.

 

For me, personally, $200 is more than my monthly transportation and groceries combined. It’s a QUARTER of my rent. It’s almost the whole amount I earn from my second job in a month. Needless to say, this is a problem. I shouldn’t have to make a huge financial sacrifice in order to take a test that I may not even do well on (because I’m a terrible test taker).

 

And that’s what’s so frustrating about the price of the GRE. It’s classist for putting certain income brackets at a much higher advantage of even considering going to grad school. And given the fact that these income disparities put Black and other people of color in a much more difficult financial position to take the test to me says that higher ed only wants a certain type of person in their hierarchy of achievement. The idea of colleges and universities who offer graduate and PhD programs picking and choosing who they admit not only based on test scores, but also, vis-a-vis the ability to even take the test, on the income of potential admittees, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If someone puts in the effort, and time to apply to grad school it shouldn’t matter if they can throw $200 at a test. But that’s just my opinion.

As always, thanks for reading. It’s always greatly appreciated.

♥M

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