In 2017 I decided to leave the university I was attending to start a new journey at Sierra Nevada University to study Creative Writing. This decision was one I struggled with for a long time, due to the high cost of tuition at SNU, along with the idea of living in a town I had never been to before and knew anything about.
According to SNU’s website, in 2014, the residence halls were full and 549 students were beginning classes to start their degree. Since then, the dorm occupancy has slowly dwindled, the class sizes have shrunk, and the general experience of attending school in the dream that is Lake Tahoe has died down.
While most of this can be attributed to COVID, I’ve found in the last three years since attending SNU that while there is an advertised experience online, the in-person experience is incredibly different. Back in 2019 I wrote an opinion piece for the Eagles Eye expressing my concern over the lack of attention the English department received, and since then I’ve noticed no improvement.
After listening to friends, students, and people who have not finished their education at SNU, I came to the conclusion that SNU is only worth the effort you put into it. As of the 2020-21 academic year, it costs approximately $53,000 to attend SNU and live on campus, before financial aid. That large sum of money encompasses living less than five minutes away from the beach, small class sizes that allow students to work closely with their professors and receive a personalized education unlike anywhere else, and exploring terrain you may never be able to see otherwise.
It also encompasses going to a school that doesn’t receive government funding for its general budget, which can lead to a different experience than a publicly funded school.
So what does that mean for the students?
In my experience, it means if your department doesn’t have as many students, it’s harder to build classes for them. After three years of taking creative writing workshops with only one professor to teach them and an accidental journalism minor due to lack of English department classes to take, I began to question whether the price was worth the experience. I’m sure if I would have majored in business or environmental science, I might have felt differently. Those programs had a higher enrollment, had more professors, and had more opportunity to grow.
But before I could completely write off the school, I had to see the other side of the argument.
SNU was key in teaching me how to become self-sufficient. Without attempting to maneuver my way through living in a new place that felt far away from home and scary, I wouldn’t have grown into the writer that I am today. The small class sizes allowed me to meet other students that I will probably be friends with for the rest of my life. The places that I felt were lacking only allowed me to grow within myself, pursue opportunities I might not have had before, and create solutions when none were in sight.
Thanks to professors like June Saraceno, Gayle Brandeis, and Jim Scripps, I’ve received opportunities that have changed the course of my career for the better and have been shown that with dedication and commitment, I can accomplish anything I truly set my mind to.
So after three years of debating, if you could put a price on becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be, I’ve decided it’s worth the tuition and the frustration at times. I’d make the decision to attend SNU over and over again if it meant I got to become this person in the process.
Senior Miranda Jacobson has attended SNU for the past three years. She is majoring in creative writing (and minoring in journalism).