University of Washington Alumni Association
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Columns Votes - December 2006
Comments on Finances and the Student Experience
I attended the UW in the late 1970’s in the middle of affirmative action. As a white female from middle-income parents who both worked—I was lucky to attend the UW at all. My parents paid for the 1st year and I paid for the rest with summer jobs and some financial aide. I really had nothing to compare my education at the U to other institutions but I was able to graduate in four years with a degree I chose and found work in the Seattle area in my field. My husband also graduated from the UW on a full scholarship, but also worked all through his four years. He also graduated in his chosen field and has worked in the Seattle area ever since. We are now raising two children—one will probably leave Washington State to attend a small private liberal arts university and the other will probably attend the UW. We will never qualify for any financial aid or minority opportunity. Because of the highly competitive nature and huge enrollment at the UW it will lose over $100,000 because that is what it will cost to send our daughter to an out-of-state university for four years. Assuming our son will have a 3.9 GPA and stellar test scores when he graduates, his education will be a bargain. Is that really how you want your graduates to feel about their alma mater?
Being keenly aware of the costs of each class influenced my choice of classes towards the more “practical” things instead of those that I enjoyed and really wanted to pursue. Despite excellent grades and lots of hard work since, the impact on career and life satisfaction has been heavily negative.
I began my undergrad work at GRCC in June 1970, finishing at the UW in Dec. 1982. With the time spans involved, I didn’t experience the building of knowledge that my four-year peers enjoyed. As a working commuter, I entirely missed the friendship opportunities. I have no connections from that time of my life. I strongly advise others to live on campus and focus on education. Student loans can be paid off. You can never replace your college experience.
My parents gave me moral support but could not finance any of my UW education. Working every summer and vacation and washing dishes in a sorority, combined with a lot of self-denial on spending, got me through the four years. I see no reason why present day students could not do the same! I believe I appreciate my education more because I WORKED for it! In my view, the various loan programs are detrimental to students (Debts must be repaid) and public funds should be used for the primary purposes of government-such as public safety and basic infrastructure.
My father refused to fill out financial aid forms. My mother didn’t have custody & didn’t feel it was her job. It took me 12 years & three universities to finish. It was damn hard! I was the first in my family to graduate! I know the value of a college education & my kids are benefiting now!
Working took a lot of time away from being in the studios with other creative minds. I believe my passion got watered down and I didn’t take advantage of the great architectural resources around me.
Borrowed money from my parents the first year-when I worked after high school as a red cross swim instructor at Steel Lake and later in the summer unloading boxcars for the railroad. Was able to pay this back and finance my remaining years by working summers in the shops at Boeing. I was able to get on one year for a summer job and then took educational leave of absence, which guaranteed me a summer job the following two years when they were not hiring for summer jobs. By working 10-hour days and 13 of every 14 days during theses summers I was able to pay for tuition, room and board, and my car insurance and gas (didn’t drive much, just work). Finished my senior year with $100 left over and a job as an engineer at Boeing (from the educational leave of absence). My parents did give me a $5 a week allowance they had been giving me all through high school and let me live at home for free during the summers so I could save all my money for school. The $5 made me one of the guys who had a little spare money to get a hamburger or see a movie once in a while. Lived in a student cooperative, run by the students, called Allerlei House (now torn down). Provided room and board for $540 dollars per year which was about half the price of living in the dorms and of course much cheaper than the fraternities. Something like this could perhaps help students today cope with the astronomical increase in costs. It also fostered a sense of responsibility since we had to do everything from collecting rent to buying and cooking the food, and developing work schedules for who did what each quarter for job assignments. It worked amazingly well and was very egalitarian.
I went to Olympic Community College my first two years and lived at home while paying my expenses with part-time jobs. Then I stayed out of school a year and worked full-time to save for my last two years at the UW. I paid my tuition from my Army Reserve drill pay, worked as house manager at my fraternity for reduced board and room, and worked part-time at the Hub cafeteria. I had money enough to have a car and a full campus experience and graduated with $5000 in the bank. I got my M.P.A. while working on campus full-time thru the employee education program.
I had some savings from working. I was newly married and my husband stayed in California to work. In hindsight, this contributed to an erosion of the marriage, but my two years at UW (grad program) were two of the best years of my life. A paid summer internship, teaching assistantship, loans and UW scholarship helped me finance my education.