Snow Day Economics: Emerson Paper Puts A Price Tag On Missed Classes

For an unprecedented total of four days this semester, Boston College and many other local colleges and universities have been forced to close—prompting many students to question the value of their education.

On Feb. 10, The Berkeley Beacon, a student newspaper at Emerson College, launched an interactive feature on its website that allows students to calculate how much money they have lost this semester in missed classes. Ryan Catalani, the editor-in-chief of The Berkeley Beacon, ironically devised the calculator on one of Emerson’s snow days.

The online calculator includes insight into the methodology of the tool. “At Emerson, one credit costs $1,145, and one credit is worth approximately 15 hours of classroom instruction per semester (or one hour of classroom instruction for 15 weeks), according to The Beacon’s webpage. “This means each hour of classroom instruction is worth approximately $76.33. To calculate the total value of Emerson’s snow days, the number of class hours per day entered is multiplied by the number of days canceled.” Catalani said the calculation is simple enough that the print edition of the paper included a worksheet that would allow students to figure out their losses manually. The results seemed to hover around $1,000, which is enough to make many students feel guilty for spending their day off enjoying the snow.

The calculator garnered a wide array of responses from both the student community and professors at Emerson—a reaction prompted by users sharing their results via social media. “Based on the Twitter reactions, it did seem like for them it was an eye opener,” Catalani said.

On Twitter and Facebook, users have discussed the implications of monetizing education on an hourly scale. One Twitter user responded, “Snow calculator shows how much canceled @EmersonCollege classes are worth. Simultaneously hilarious and upsetting.” Proponents of the calculator argued that missing class is a detriment to one’s education, despite the fact that on the surface it can feel like a reward. Other critics did not feel the same: “Of course we missed a lot of classes, what are you trying to say?” Catalani said, describing the typical opponent’s response.

According to Catalani, the calculator ignited conversations about the strong feelings inherent in most students’ relationships with their education. He explained that it is natural to be inclined to ignore work, but too much downtime can be an extraordinary drain on one’s desire to be productive.

An additional topic the calculator addressed was the distribution of students’ tuition dollars. While many argued that the cancelled days should be included in a conversation about lost tuition dollars, others pointed out that tuition could be distributed in other ways across the university besides classes. “Some professors were quick to point out that, you know, you aren’t exactly losing any money per se,” Catalani said. Emerson is one college that requires make up time for any class lost due to snow days. Catalani explained that while it is nice to think that making up for lost time is required, it is important to consider how exactly it would be possible to ensure that every student gets sufficient compensation for the time lost.

Catalani believes some people are misconstruing the purpose of the calculator. He said the invention was not intended to provoke frustration at the loss of current resources for students, but it was merely created to spark a conversation. “Not all of the value of an education comes from classroom time,” Catalani said.

While the calculator has sparked a campus-wide conversation at Emerson, it is clear that many students at Emerson are ready to stop thinking about snow days and get back into their school routine. “Some of my friends on Facebook were already saying, you know, ‘I just want to get back to class already,’” Catalani said.

Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphic

2 Comments

  1. This question was not raised only at Emerson.
    My friends and I were talking about it at BC on the snow days as well. We determined
    that while there may be a monetary loss for missed days, we are still going to
    make up the work in the classroom. Our professors are teaching more quickly but
    covering the same amount of material. I think it is important to remember that we
    are here to get an education, even if we do have some snow days, which is our
    ultimate goal. We will not be far behind because we all have the desire to work
    hard and do well not just in our studies but also in our future. Since we are
    looking into our careers and into what the future holds, we have the incentive
    to make up for lost time. It may have been great to get a couple days off but do
    not be fooled! The amount of work we are now having to do is more than normal.
    Professors generally do not like snow days because they put us behind in our
    work but they are fun for us because we get to sled and have snowball fights. I
    think that Ryan Catalani
    created a simple way to see how much money each hour of class is worth but, as Joanna Yuelys
    stated, college is worth much more than what happens in the classroom. It is
    also what experiences we have and those snow days allowed us to have fun and
    make memories in the snow!

  2. I’m glad someone else finallycalculated how much money each snow day costs. I myself did a quick calculation during one of the snow days. To no surprise, the four days lost are thousands of dollars we paid for. Yes, of course we are paying for more than the teachers and the class rooms. At Boston College, so much of our money is spent on student life at Boston College. We all benefit from it greatly, but no one really thinks about it. All the things that make Boston College so great comes from so many different areas of the university. The faculty and professors are amazing, but there is a lot more to Boston College.

    None the less, I have been very surprised how great the professors have been in order to stay according to the syllabus. Four days of missed school and only one of my mid- terms were moved or postponed. I’m so thankful to the faculty for putting the extra effort to get through material and preparing us students. I’m even more thankful that we don’t have Saturday classes like BU does. I guess it really does suck to BU.

    I think it’s important to look at this snow day calculator just to realize how much our education is worth. We all realize how blessed we are, but this calculator shows down to the dollar what we are paying for and what we are missing out on every time we have a snow day… or every time we skip class.

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