Voices: Collegiate Decisiveness

Radio Camp Marquan Harper 23
Marquan Harper, a Twin Cities Academy student, practices in MPR’s studio during Radio Camp on Friday, June 30, 2023, in St. Paul.

Selling a Snapshot of What Life Will Never Be

 “We’re Selling a Pipe Dream To Your Average Fck’g Loser” – Billy McFarland

How can you take a quote from a man who is looked at as a criminal, and apply that to something upheld righteously like college?

Billy McFarland is an entrepreneur who was later turned into a criminal after his involvement in leading the Fyre Festival and the disaster that became. Fyre Festival was a fraudulent luxury music festival that took place in 2017 on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma. The tuberosities that Fyre Festival led to 14 lawsuits, and an FBI investigation leading to Billy serving four years in prison.

The thing that people hate to admit about Fyre Festival is that the event had some of the best marketing seen by a modern-day music festival. Featuring models like Bella Hadid, Fyre captured the eye of a young, cash-heavy audience willing to spend for an experience. This marketing was seen as deplorable, but yet it was bad because the product held no substance.

With youthfulness comes impulse. Your brain is developing, and intelligence is slight. You think you’re in control, but with youth comes bliss. Realistically you dream, and look for “fun.” Inevitably nature runs through your veins, and blood is thicker than water. You naturally misconstrue the concept of fulfillment by painting a reality of happiness. You do this practically, and impracticality. You question yourself, and love learning new things you choose. And, you look at what the world paints and fall into the love for misconception.

Advertisers and marketers know their audiences. It is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market, and that children view more than 40,000 commercials each year. Looking at the Fyre Festival and how they sold this dream to the average loser, let’s think about a dream many young people hold now.

College is advertising free for all. I plan to attend college and I have been bombarded with college mail and solicited via text and email. According to a Simpson-Scarborough survey, colleges and universities spend between $429 and $623 per enrolled student, per year, on marketing. In 2018, colleges spent $2 billion on advertising, and in 2019, they spent $2.2 billion.

I believe that colleges immorally target and sell the dream of their campus to students. When you hold up dollar amounts with the dream of attaining a higher education to better yourself, morality is not the main concept in mind. College is expensive! The average cost of college for four years is over $100,000. The average cost of attendance for a student living on campus at a public four-year in-state institution is $26,027 per year or $104,108 over four years. Out-of-state students pay $27,091 per year or $108,364 over four years. Private, nonprofit university students pay $55,840 per year or $223,360 over four years.

Colleges lock into the undeveloped minds of students by scaring them with price points and luring them with the dream of their school. The small campuses are small worlds, but once you graduate, and see the reality of the loans and financial burden, you might think about how you were involved in a snapshot of what life could be.

Can we be mad at colleges for this? Realistically no, because every company does the same thing. This is a greater discussion on the morality of targeting advertisements to certain audiences and the ethics behind it.

 This story was produced at ThreeSixty’s Op-Ed Workshop in fall 2023. Marquan worked with Sahan Journal digital producer Hannah Ihekoronye and Star Tribune reporter Nick Williams to finish his story. Click here to read more stories from the workshop.