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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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My earnings and family contribution almost covered the essentials, but there were times I skipped buying books because of short funds. There was rarely money for social activities such as pizza, or even bus fare. I definitely knew the value of a dollar, and my Peace Corps earnings after graduation were more luxurious!

I was unable to take afternoon classes because I had to go to work. I ended up getting pneumonia and nearly died. A trip to the emergency room saved my life. I was a voice performance major and finally bailed on the required fifth year due to exhaustion and got a general music degree. I’m glad I got my degree but my work schedule made it impossible to participate in anything other than classes so this definitely had a strongly negative impact on my student experience.

When you can focus on just the academics, life is a lot smoother. This is especially helpful if you’re in a major that’s particularly stressful on its own, like engineering or social work.

My insistence on a no-loan aid program, with work-study in the package, was a no-brainer, since I took my 1990 B.A degree at age 63, hardly a time of life to think about repayment.

After completing my service, I returned and received very little financial aid. But, Gulf War veteran status entitled me to reduced tuition, which I paid with the GI Bill and by getting a well-paid summer internship which also allowed me to work part-time during the school year. Except for the internship, I would not wish my path upon anyone. Unlike my parents, I’m saving money for my children’s’ education.

I worked 40 hours per week on swing shift while carrying 14-16 credit hours per quarter at the UW. I studied as I could between the hours I was working and the hours I was on campus in classes. It was a tough life, but I received my B.S.E.E. on schedule and had a successful engineering career in Boeing Space and Defense programs. I paid for all my tuition without aid from any outside source. Most of today’s students are too lazy to do what I had to do to get my degree.

I’m in the middle of the baby-boom generation. By the time I got to the UW jobs were scarce. I managed to get a student job in Suzzallo’s Government Documents. It was dull and boring and it paid pocket change but I was thrilled because I finally had a real job!

Having to pay for most of my own college expenses meant that I spent a great deal of my time working during the school year and the entire summers. This gave me less opportunity to experience other aspects of college life and to explore career options through volunteer/non-paid internships. I had a great experience at the U and am proud of being able to fund most of the cost myself, but it would have been an even richer experience if I had been less worried about money.

I had four children before gaining my master’s in education from the UW. I took courses in the evening and was not able to attend one full quarter until I was forced to do my last quarter in full attendance.

Our society needs to subsidize students with intellect and promise rather than leaving them to get an advanced education on their own without support. My first four years I borrowed a little money for tuition and books and then worked at two jobs while on campus at WWU (then WWCE). It was very stressful. I had undiagnosed ADD. I could not remember what I read unless I read everything out loud. I missed out on a lot of social life on campus because of the immense amount of time it took me to do the reading required. I also had problems with auditory reception so listening in class and taking notes at the same time was impossible for me. Since I have learned more about my problem areas I have been able to overcome a lot by focusing on what I do best—writing and coordination and leadership strengths. If I had had proper counseling at college it would have helped me know more about my strengths and how to overcome my weaknesses much earlier.

I actually had a full scholarship for about four quarters and my folks paid for two quarters before I dropped out with about a 2.3 GPA. I returned after a couple of years off and worked about 35 hours a week while going to school full-time taking a student loan for about 5-10% of my total school costs (books & tuition) and managed a 3.89 average over my final two years. Paying for it myself helped me understand the value of the education I was receiving and it actually worked much better for me.

The experience of working while attending college and paying for a large portion of the total expense gave me an increased appreciation for the value of my education. It also opened doors for me, exposing me to a profession that I would not otherwise have considered. It was fortuitous that I got a clerical weekend job at a local teaching hospital, as it sparked an interest in medicine, and was in large part responsible for my subsequent career as a pediatrician. I did come from a low-income family, and had I been given a free ride, I might never have chosen the path I ultimately took. Financial aid is most certainly helpful in this era of increasing tuition, but a total free ride is not a good idea.

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