Pepperdine: Home of the rich kids

Tracy Domingo
Assistant Living Editor

There are many factors in an average Pepperdine student’s life that can instigate high stress levels. Tests, exams, papers, mid-terms, jobs, careers, the future and non-existent girlfriends and boyfriends may be among the few. But one problem that the majority of Pepperdine students do not usually go to bed fretting about is financial struggles.
In fact, Pepperdine students are stereotypically known to come from wealthy, influential backgrounds (AKA “rich kids”). However, aside from just stereotypes, one could arrive at the same conclusion by merely walking through the aisles of Rho Parking Lot and noting all the various high-performance, high-style and high-cost vehicles that are parked there.

Additionally, beyond just the expensive vehicles around campus, wealth is clearly evident in many other aspects at Pepperdine. For example, it is no secret that Pepperdine students, especially women, dress for class in some of the newest and most expensive fashion trends as if they were getting ready to saunter down the fashion runways in Milan. Hundreds upon thousands of dollars worth of Gucci, Coach, Prada and Louis Vuitton handbags and backpacks casually drape the shoulders of female and even male students across campus. This is not to mention the dorm rooms and apartments that are constantly transformed by students (with the help of their parents) from boring, empty rooms into accommodations fit for royalty equipped with all the newest technology and décor.  

Needless to say, by taking this type of obvious material wealth that is evident in various places at Pepperdine and adding to it a pricey private university tuition, it is easy to see why it has always been an accepted fact that the majority of Pepperdine students are not very restrained or concerned when it comes to money. However, with college tuitions continually on the rise across the country, is this kind of wealth really as unique to Pepperdine as is often thought? Or are rising tuitions costs across the country causing college students everywhere to mirror Pepperdine’s “rich kid” image?

Senior Santiago Giraldo does not believe that the wealth seen around campus is necessarily inherent just to Pepperdine. In fact, the “rich” aspect of Pepperdine did not even phase him when he first came here from his home in Columbia.

“Without a doubt, all you see around here is nice cars,” Giraldo said. “But to me it was not really surprising. I just figured you have to be wealthy to come to college in the U.S. so it’s just like a reality. Plus, I don’t think the wealthy aspect is just at Pepperdine, it’s just Los Angeles in general.”

Being located in Malibu and being close to West Los Angeles and Hollywood probably play a large factor in the school’s “ritzy” school reputation. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, Malibu’s median family income was $123,293. Between 2000 and 2002, the median household income in California was $48,113 compared to the 2002 median household income of the entire United States of $42,409.

Comparatively, the tuition, room and board for the 2004-2005 academic year at Pepperdine soared to a high of $37,360, just $5,049 shy of the median household income for the entire country.
However, Pepperdine is not alone with its high tuition costs. Neighboring schools University of Southern California and University of California at Los Angeles both carry heavy price tag tuitions, with USC being the most expensive with tuition, room and board topping the charts at $39,510.

“Besides USC, Pepperdine is definitely one of the richest schools in Southern California,” said junior Samantha Singleton.  “It is partially due to the area that we are located and the people. But despite that, I have seen that Pepperdine is growing more and more to be open to all kinds of students with different kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds.”
According to Director of Financial Assistance Janet Lockhart, the average family income of all Seaver College students is unknown because about half of all students do not provide such statistics. 
However, Pepperdine enrolls students from all economic backgrounds and attempts to make it possible for every qualified student the chance to attend Pepperdine.

“In my country not just everyone can go to college,” said Giraldo. “But here in the United States and even at Pepperdine, if you really want to go, you can.”

In a recent study by the College Board, a non-profit association, college tuitions at public and private universities alike are still on the rise, but are slowing down. The study reported that public four-year college tuitions increased 10.5 percent this year while private college tuitions increased 6 percent. However, the study also revealed that even though tuition costs are on the rise, many students are not necessarily shouldering the extra burden because financial aid is also increasing.

In fact, according to Lockhart, approximately 50 percent of all undergraduate students at Seaver College are receiving some form of grant assistance and approximately 75 percent of undergraduates at Seaver College receive some sort of financial assistance, including student and parent educational loans and work study.
Additionally, to help put a dent in the tuition bill, among the 2969 undergraduates enrolled at Seaver College, 960, or about 32 percent of the student body, are employed in at least one on-campus job.
However, despite all the financial help that Pepperdine has to offer, a student who borrows money through a financial aid program still has an average loan debt of $32,000 upon graduation, nearly the amount of just one of the fancy BMWs that  decorate campus.

“The wealth is only one aspect of Pepperdine,” said Singleton. “You just have to look at what Pepperdine is: a small, private Christian University. Just by that, you automatically rule out a lot of people who would want to come here. But what Pepperdine is trying do, those things cost money.”

Senior Anila Ma from Hong Kong agrees that Pepperdine is a wealthy school.”

“This is definitely a rich kid school, but it’s not like everybody is rich here,” said Ma. “But if you can afford the tuition you can obviously afford to have all the nice things that people have here. When I first came here I was shocked by all the nice cars and all the fancy bags. But after a while, you just get used to it.”