It feels like yesterday figuring out which college to go to — sifting through brochures and browsing websites, attending virtual events, and making detailed lists of pros and cons. Through it all, there was one school that stood out to me: Oberlin.
Although Oberlin’s rural location wasn’t ideal, I remember thinking that the College had the best of both worlds: a tight-knit campus in a scenic downtown area and an easily accessible metropolitan area – Cleveland – teeming with opportunities and only 35 minutes from campus. . However, contrary to what the admissions office tells prospective students, transportation to Cleveland is inaccessible and expensive, making it nearly impossible for Oberlin students without cars to travel to Cleveland.
Oberlin boasts on its website that its students have all the benefits of Cleveland available to them. He even brings all freshmen to Cleveland during orientation as part of their Connect Cleveland initiative to “connect Oberlin students with opportunities and partnerships in the Greater Cleveland area.”
Although Oberlin never explicitly promises on its website that it will provide students with inexpensive transportation options, it does state that “for students seeking transportation to Cleveland for independent purposes, [they] offer several options. However, if one actually visits the Oberlin Transportation website, one will notice that the only shuttle provider is the Airport Oberlin Shuttle, which brings students to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for a $20 one-way trip. or $40 round trip – more if you don’t pay cash. The cost of an Uber or Lyft could be twice as much. Paying $40 just to get in and out of Cleveland is not financially feasible for most students. I contacted Oberlin Transportation via email, but the account was temporarily unmonitored, which is even more indicative of Oberlin’s lack of interest in fulfilling its promise to connect students to Cleveland.
Oberlin’s lack of shuttle services is problematic on several levels. The cities offer students many career development opportunities, from internships to networking opportunities, which cannot be found as easily in a suburban city like Oberlin. Currently, Oberlin offers transportation-related funding only for winter and summer internships. However, many organizations only offer internships during the fall or spring semesters. The inability to access internships in Cleveland during the academic year limits students’ chances of building their resumes, putting them at a disadvantage when applying for jobs after graduation.
If students had easy access to Cleveland, they would find more opportunities to volunteer and make a difference in their communities. Politically inclined students, for example, might participate in political rallies or intern for political campaigns. Students could also benefit from Cleveland’s vibrant arts and culture scene.
The College should want its students to come out of the Oberlin bubble and learn more about the world. He should also want his students to have resume-building and networking opportunities that will help them land jobs after graduation. Students without a car will be able to pursue these opportunities only if the College offers low-cost or no-cost transportation options to students.
Obviously, it’s more cost effective for Oberlin not to offer shuttles to and from Cleveland. However, other institutions like Brandeis University and Wellesley College have proven that it is possible for a college to be fiscally responsible while prioritizing student life. Brandeis offers its students free shuttle services to Boston and Cambridge, Thursday through Sunday. Wellesley offers its students travel to Cambridge, Friday through Sunday, on the Senate bus for just $3 one way. They also offer exchange buses during the week so that students participating in the Wellesley-MIT exchange program can travel to their classes. While cross-exchange students have priority for this service on weekdays, all Wellesley students can use it for easy access to big city benefits. These educational institutions are ready to invest in the lives and learning of students, even if it costs more. If Brandeis is willing to fly students half an hour away so they can enjoy the academic, artistic, and cultural benefits of the nearby city, then Oberlin has no excuse not to fly its students to Cleveland.