University of Washington Alumni Association
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Columns Votes - December 2006
Comments on Finances and the Student Experience
I wanted to experience all of the University that I could in order to prepare myself for the rest of my life. Luckily, financial aid and loans were available to me, which allowed me to attend the University in the first place. Once at the University, I excelled in extracurricular activities and was able to learn as much outside of the classroom as in it, if not more. This also helped me earn some scholarships- so my decision to be involved in activities also paid off financially, even though it didn’t look like it would as a freshman. I also worked some and enjoyed it, but I made sure that school dictated my work schedule and not the other way around. I must admit, I am paying for some of it now with my student loan payments. At the same time if it weren’t for my extracurricular activities, I wouldn’t have the job I do today, or my fiancée for that matter.
I worked in Alaska on the “slime-line” in a freezer. I left for Alaska the day after school let out and came back the day before classes. It paid about $5 an hour but you could get in a lot of hours. In addition to paying for most of my expenses it provided motivation for college and an invaluable experience in what the “real” work force was like.
Fall 1951 thru Spring 1953 Worked 28 hrs weekly [4 to 8 M-F, all day Saturday] Negative effect; on probation last two qtrs. [Left to do my two yrs active duty w/Army] Fall 55 thru Spring 59, had GI Bill, earned room and board working as a houseboy, was substitute letter carrier at Christmas and during the Summers. Winter 59 needed a $250 student loan to continue. Finally paid it off in Jan 68. Winter 59 through Spring 1961 did night collections M-Sat for USPD, delivered UW campus route on Saturday, was substitute letter carrier at Christmas and during summers. Positive effect; made deans list twice and finished a year of graduate school. Pay was low, but so was tuition. Parents couldn’t afford to provide financial support so lived at home first two years. Managed to make ends meet, from Fall 55 through Spring 61, but just barely. Developed self-reliance, learned value of time management. Married in Mar 59, which contributed to the overall positive effect.
I personally paid for over half of my education. I received a small scholarship upon high school graduation and paid for my first two years at a community college while working part-time. When I transferred to the UW I paid about half of my tuition, room and board. I had one student loan of under $3,000, which my parents paid off. They had two other children in college that year and we were all working. I worked a bit on campus and spent a summer working in an Alaskan fish cannery, which paid for an entire year. It took me two extra quarters to graduate, but overall I feel that being responsible for my education was a valuable lesson. Upon graduation, I had no debt, which was very helpful to my husband and I in terms of financially preparing for our family’s future.
Most students I knew were working their way through college. It wasn’t that big a deal. Interestingly, I haven’t expected my children to pay much more than clothing and entertainment expenses from their own earnings.
As an international student I was only able to receive university-based grants and couldn’t get the benefit of being an in-state resident even though I lived in Seattle for three years. This is actually what put an undue burden on me (and my family) I was paying over more than four times what other in-state residents were paying per quarter. It created a serious debt burden.
I bused tables and washed dishes at the Barb, a then beef sandwich place [across from the Post Office on the Ave], worked as a construction laborer, and was the first employee of Pizza Pete when a graduate student. The then University short-term loan program made the difference. Tuition was $71 a quarter, books perhaps another fifty. I would borrow tuition and books from the UW and over the course of the quarter save enough to pay back the loan only to borrow again. The minimum wage then was $1 or $1.25.
Football scholarship paid everything. Probably at sub-minimum wage however, plus a series of serious/no-fun permanent injuries.
Because I was completely self-supporting, I could only go to school part-time, allowing for my work schedule. Thus my five-year degree took seven years to complete. None of my courses were taught in the summer or evenings. My many different jobs during the years offered varying experiences and a sense of security that I could accomplish my goal on my own. After 6 or 7 years of employment I started my own business, which I enjoyed for 45 years before retiring. My greatest asset was good health, which allowed me to invest the required long hours for my degree. Also I had the advantage of going through school with the WWII veterans who were great support and friends.