University of Washington Alumni Association
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Columns Votes - December 2006
Comments on Finances and the Student Experience
I worked very hard in construction all summers—very long hours. At the same time, my parents paid for my food, books, housing and tuition. My money was for all other expenses and for a savings account.
I was on my own, emancipated from my parents two weeks after I turned 17. I had to learn how to support myself, budget, apply to college, etc., totally on my own. It took me quite some time to get it figured out. Initially I went to school part-time in the evenings because that’s all I could afford. Then you get stuck in a financial aid Catch-22 because the money you earn supporting yourself decreases your eligibility for aid. I’d save up enough money for some school, attend full-time one quarter, then have to drop out because I ran out of money.
It often takes longer to get through school when you’re low-income. This is due to many factors. I started college in 1973, and finally got my B.A.S.W. in 1990. The world at large had changed many times (i.e., the social-political-economic milieu) and this affected the field of study I chose. Returning to school in the late 80s after a break to start a family, I was going through a divorce and facing single-parenthood of a five-year-old. This also affected my study choices, as I wanted to be as available a parent as I could. My educational choices were affected significantly by outside factors rather than what I was interested in or perhaps well-suited to do.
I graduated in 1969, so tuition was very low—somewhere around $115-$125 a quarter for in-state. That made housing was the major expense, and since I was from Seattle, I lived at home part of the time and in the sorority house part of the time. I worked Saturdays and vacations, but not during the week.
I was a waitress, and also received grants and loans from UW. The financial aid mostly covered tuition, while the waitressing covered rent, books, and food.
I participated in very few of the “normal” college experiences, but this didn’t affect my experience at all. While others went to football games, I worked for parking division—parking their cars.
I developed my own circle of friends outside the typical group and I’m pleased with my choice. We met at coffee houses and discussed things I consider more important than football, etc. I may never have attended a single game in all my years at the UW (B.A, M.B.A.) but I can tell you the location of every single branch library.
There were many occasions where I chose to pay rent instead of tuition. It was also a challenge to balance work and school especially since I paid for half the tuition myself. I constantly asked myself “Can I work more hours to make more money so next quarter I won’t be so cash strapped?” But if I worked more, my grades suffered.
You need a selection between “half” and “all” because I figure that I earned 75-80% of my expenses from working, got about 10% from my family and the other 10-15% was from various financial aid packages. I would do it the same way again, but I doubt I’d try to do it in four years because the stress was such that by the time I graduated I had an ulcer and pneumonia. Obviously, the need to work meant I missed a lot of the activities enjoyed by those without such a requirement, but the experience was an enhancement to my resume.
Tuition, room and board paid by parent’s college savings account,which started at birth. Part-time work experience in an architectural office during School of Architecture paid incidental and car expenses, and it provided valuable professional training. It was a good financial and professional combination.
I paid for my college education by living at home the first two years and going to a community college, which was less expensive and likely provided a better education and through work before entering college and during college. I was given a total of $675 by my relatives and family towards my college education. We were poor and that is all that they could afford. I entered college with $5,000 in the bank and left college with $5,000 in the bank. Having to work generally did not interfere with studying it just meant that I had less time to play.
I’m very proud of the fact that my wife and I paid for my U of W degree. We paid for the educations of all three of our children and proud of that as well.
As I financed much of my education and living expenses, I was not able to attend the UW each quarter, but instead had to work summer and fall to fund winter and spring quarters in addition to working part-time while enrolled. This not only prolonged my graduation but fragmented my learning experience and had a negative impact on the social aspects of attending the UW. If I were to do it again, I would seek financial assistance in the form of student loans and strive to maintain continuity of the learning experience.
I went on both the VA and worked as an electrician to pay the bills. Since I was older (29), it didn’t have an impact on my social life since most everyone was younger than myself. For the first time in my life, I truly felt I was doing something worthwhile that would have a positive impact on my future. UW was not only a wonderful experience, but also gave a lot of credence as well as credibility to my career choice. Not to mention the fact that I met my wife of now 20 years there.