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Columns Votes - December 2006

How did you pay for your college education?

Comments on Finances and the Student Experience

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I gave up a four-year scholarship (Colorado) to get married. After my youngest entered kindergarten, I applied to the UW. I was a commuter—stacked all classes 8 AM–12 PM to be home when the kids got out of elementary school. (Missed out on choice of professors and evening study groups.) Finished in thee years. Wouldn’t trade the experience —didn’t have to tell the kids how important college is—they saw it first hand. But would complete my education before starting a family, if I had it to do again! Go Huskies! Both daughters graduated from UW and went on to earn M.S. degrees. Appreciate my business school experience, Beta Alpha Psi and C.P.A credentials.

Thanks to the UW staff free tuition program, while working full-time I took one class per quarter, over many years, to complete my bachelor’s degree. I was also raising a family and putting my husband through the UW, so we were a very busy household!

I entered the UW in 1965 and graduated in 1970 when a quarter’s tuition was $115. Each year cost my parents and I $345. My mom owned a catering service and the three of us could make that much on a good weekend of weddings and parties. My brother went to the UW in the late 50’s when the tuition was $75 per quarter. He planted trees for Weyerhaeuser earning $50 a weekend and paid for all his expenses at the U and for a fraternity by himself. We both lived at home in the Green Lake district during our university years.

Having put myself through college, coming from a poor family, I am always puzzled by other students’ claims that they can’t go to college because their parents can’t afford it, or they didn’t get a scholarship. Are they lazy? What gives here? If one really wants to get a college education, one will find a way.

In September of 1967, at the start of my first quarter as a freshman, tuition was around $100 a quarter. I paid for my first three years by working to earn my expenses. By March of 2002, when I finally completed my senior year, tuition & expenses had increased astronomically! I’ve paid off $5,000 on my student loans, and have another $7,600 to go. I’ll pay off the loans just in time for retirement.

I saved much of my monthly military pay, all of my combat pay (Army, Vietnam), GI Benefits, and worked summers and in the residence hall.

I shared first an apartment, then a house with 3-4 roommates to afford to live and go to school in the early 70’s. We shared food and cooking, phones, TV, etc., and car-pooled when possible. I also bused to school or walked, and worked part-time. There was little money for gas, clothes, or any other extras like entertainment (of course, pitchers were only a buck at the time if you got in before 5 p.m., so that helped). My goal was to burden my parents as little as possible. They essentially paid mostly for tuition, and helped considerably the year I lived at home between my freshman and sophomore years to work and save money to complete the last three years. However, the financial issue kept me from pursuing a higher degree for 30 years: it wasn’t until 2005 that I was able to study and obtain a master’s.

My first two years were financed by a deferred interest, student bank loan while I also worked PT (approx 20 hours/wk). During my last two years at the UW, I was enrolled in Air Force ROTC and was a scholarship recipient. The US government paid for tuition, books and a $100/mo stipend during the academic year. I continued to work PT at a variety of PT jobs (approx 25-30 hours/wk). While my PT work did adversely affect study opportunities, I gained good work experience and took pride in not requesting any family financial assistance.

Scholarships, federal and state financial aid, and working a minimum-wage job throughout my undergrad career at the UW enabled me to complete my degree and become entirely self-reliant as a young adult. My family’s inability to finance my education, though a challenge at the time, required me to make the most of the generous resources that the UW had to offer its less affluent in-state students. I left the UW with a debt load of under $2,000, which I gratefully paid off years before the note came due. My years at the UW not only prepared me for an academic career but also taught me vital financial lessons.

The people who had to work to put themselves through college missed a lot of the socialization of college—which is also very important to the maturation of students. Possibly ‘helping’ students (not paying for it all) would allow them to experience social life as well as spend time on studying and learning in order to get a well-rounded education.

About 75% of my college was paid for with my savings and work during summers. The remainder came from a pension plan through the federal government that I received until I was 22 since my father was a federal employee who was killed on the job.

For my first degree, I had GI Bill assistance. For my second degree, I paid completely out of my own pocket.

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