As many of my fellow seniors know, one of the most stressful parts of senior year is realizing that a lifetime of finances, debt, and loans are about to slap you in the face. The majority of us end up looking relentlessly for any scholarship that we qualify for, doing anything we can to get some kind of boost in funding our college education.

My recent research shows that the price of attending universities has ridiculously inflated while minimum wage accelerates at a much lower speed. But, hey, financial aid exists to help us out, right? Well, in most cases, not so much.

Financial aid for college is often based on your parents’ most recent taxes, regardless of who is actually funding the education. Many students, like me, are going to be paying on their own with occasional donations from their parents, but we get little to no financial aid. So, I’m forced to turn to scholarships and pray that I get some kind of help.

I’ve always wished I could be a successful student athlete. Unfortunately, anything that requires athletic ability, I won’t be good at. If I put in all my effort, I’ll still be below average. If something relies on coordination or directional skills, I am a lost cause. (However, I’ve always been naturally good at writing.)

Someone who’s naturally good at sports will dedicate their high school careers to it, and end up on varsity. From my perspective, working for the high school paper and now transitioning to the Unleashed program as well as doing Running Start all combine into the writing equivalent to a prime sports career. But will I see the similar results for my financial aid opportunities from colleges? Not likely. But it’s not my fault I’m naturally awful at sports!

So what am I, as a chronically unathletic woman, supposed to do to pay for my college education?

Student athletes work hard, and often times they fully deserve the scholarships or opportunities they receive. In all honesty (and for multiple reasons), I would love to be athletic in any way, and I admire student athletes for their determination. Getting recognition for their efforts is amazing to see, but it’s so heartbreaking to see all the other kinds of people who also work hard at whatever they also do but don’t receive recognition.

Actually, there are many student athletes who don’t get big financial opportunities, either. If every good athlete was given a full ride, every university would be jam-packed with millions of those students. The percentage of athletes who see such positive outcomes for their high school careers is slim. And the percentage of people who receive academic scholarships or other talent-based scholarships (such as in theater, writing, arts, etc.) is even more slim. But we’re all trying as hard as we can, whatever our passion may be. So why do these colleges overlook so many of us?

Now I get that athletic programs bring in lots of profit for universities because of the performances of student athletes, but does that really justify this bias against other students? By setting their sights on athletes in order to prioritize profits, colleges could arguably be considered as places that are focused on merely being capitalist institutions rather than being places of education.

Even if colleges’ sports profits are spent on furthering the functions of education, the priorities seem off here. According to an article at published last June 28 about the highest-paid state employees, the most recent data regarding state salaries shows that the highest-paid employees of both Washington State University and the University of Washington aren’t administrators, but coaches. The coaches of their profit-earning football teams make more than anyone else at each university. So how can I believe that the profits from college sports are actually benefiting me more than the athletic programs? While coaches are earning the highest salaries because of sports revenues, are regular students like me getting direct benefits such as lower tuition or no parking fees?

Even if sports are funding college education for all students, there are parts of the finance system that don’t make much sense to me. First, I’m paying just to apply to a school. Then I’m paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend (and live, and park, and eat, and do anything else) there at a much higher rate than what it was just a few decades ago. So why does the college still need the millions of dollars generated from athletics? Sure, money is money, but I’m pouring my life savings into a university, along with thousands of other students who aren’t supported by all those athletic scholarship programs.

Everything around us is about money. But if my education is being jeopardized because of the amount of it that’s required, college becomes a huge risk. Many adults in my life are paying off their student loans decades later, even some of my professors at Yakima Valley College. Should there not be more financial support for prospective students and for rewarding their talents?

I’m right on the brink of adulthood, and suddenly I’m being faced with financial decisions that could affect me decades from now. Besides, degrees don’t even seem to guarantee jobs at the level that they used to. So does going to college hold the same weight it used to, or has it morphed into another capitalist corporation?

Karlee Van De Venter is a senior at Eisenhower High School who is enrolled in the Running Start program at Yakima Valley College.