Posts Tagged ‘universities’

The Tuition Crisis? Duh? It’s Called Work

April 2, 2012

I’ve heard lots of grumbling this Spring from both the parents of teens bound for college and from the oh-woe-is-me students already feeling the weight of the mighty college tuition loan.

With apologies to those younger that myself, I doubt few under the age of fifty is an actual adult. For sake of argument, that word is defined here as “a person responsible for living within a lifestyle and, in fact, choosing that lifestyle with a strong imbedded sense of the requirement to pay back any person, institution, or thing to whom or to which they owe money.”

Thus this adult feels it incumbent to comment on the au current tuition crises. Granted this adult went to an undergraduate university from 1966-1970. A then dreaded public university. That said so much about your station in life.

My quarterly tuition was approximately $200-400. per quarter depending on the number of credits you took (at least as my memory serves me… since I’m really “that” old). Back in September 1966, the tuition at any college or university was considered onerously high. Ridiculously high. High schools still taught dual tracts — vocation and academic.

The reality was not everyone could attend college — because it cost to much! If it was too ludicrous a financial burden, or the unlucky wanna-be just didn’t have an aptitude for Descartes, Maslow, trigonometry, or computer sciences (back then it was the Univac 1100 series mainframes with their high tech punch cards). So they mowed laws which they turned into landscaping businesses or helped their father tune the one family car — which became the town auto repair shop. And so on. If you couldn’t afford the tuition, you didn’t lock yourself in your private bedroom and have a tantrum (chances are you shared the bedroom with your sister or brother). If you were accepted to a college three thousand miles away from home, but your parents didn’t have money, you didn’t go. If you wanted to “move out of your parent’s house,” but couldn’t afford to, daddy buy you a condo. If you spent the first day of your part time job fitting wigs on middle-aged women or waiting tables at Howard Johnson’s, you did it because you understood that you earned your way in life.

So what did you to? Oh, wow. This is going to come as a big shock.

If you couldn’t afford to pay your own way to Stanford, Yale, or the University of Missouri, you had several unenviable options. All distatesfully associated with: work; work; and work.
1) You could follow in the family business (what ever that was);
2) You went to work for someone else’s business as what is known as an “employee.”
3) You applied to the college or university and hoped that you qualified for a 100% scholarship — Oh, but, gee, I forgot. The only 100% scholarships in the ’60’s and early ’70’s were (for the large part) athletic scholarships. So unless you had lettered in Varsity football or something similar, you weren’t even eligible for full scholarships. Gee. How unfair.
4) Your grades, social activities, and character won you a $1,000 scholarship for one year to help you go to the college of your choice — Yippee! Expect even with tuition at let’s say $300. a quarter, that meant you had to both have financial help from your parents (if possible) AND that you would have to do what was known as “work your way through college.” What a concept! How then noble and worthy a line that was perceived on your résumé. Bus trays in the dorm cafeteria in trade for living there? Process paperwork in the registrar’s office or some other on campus administrative cavern in which they were short-handed? Re-book the library shelves? Wait tables in some off campus restaurant? Accept a full tuition state-sponsored scholarship if you contractually agreed to teach in your state for each year you accepted the imbursement — even though you did not want to teach. Ever.

The reason tuition was $300. a quarter, was because the average family (at least, my average blue collar family) earned about $12,000. a year. Nobody expected an academic free ride. Well, of course, the one percent did; and that would follow like day into night that life was not easy. Not then; not now.

Choosing a career was a life choice. Perhaps your parents couldn’t afford to have you wind up with a BFA degree but not know how to type? Or, because you were a woman, the head of the department told you point blank that you could not apply for a Rhodes Scholarship (as they were only available to men who played rugby). Or, hey, about your immigrant neighbors saved their money so that their children could receive the university education they would not afford themselves.

Ah, inflation.

But how did tuition go up so much? Gosh, let’s look to recent history. Academically-enriched programs, more degree options, computer science, medical, agricultural and state-of-the-art high technology fields requiring expensive labs, better qualified academicians, larger campuses, better libraries, and let’s not forget high stakes alumni-driven basketball and football stadiums, state of the art tennis courts, golf ranges, swimming pools. It costs. Something typically unknown to most college bound students whose parents use digitized technologies to transfer cash into their children’s overdrawn accounts. Sorry, kiddies. I have no genuine understanding of your perceived and lamented financial plight.

Yes, children. In the late Spring of 1966, I received my acceptance letters. I had been accepted to a number of cross-country prestigious schools. My parents did not have the money to send me. In fact, my mother had to work an extra job to buy me othodonture because my father was running a business and just couldn’t take out any more loans — on his business and our house. Desperate to leave home and live in a dorm like my friends, I explored working my way through college. The outcome was that the only way I could go to college, in fact, be the first of my entire family to go to college was to live at home for the next four years, work a full time job as a drive-in window bank teller (from 1 pm – 9 pm M-F). That meant all of my requisite classes had to be scheduled from seven a.m. to noon…. so I could sprint across the sprawling campus to catch a bus to my assigned bank. When I returned to my parents home by nine or ten, I did my homework. Then was up at five to be in the seat of my first class at the appointed hour.

So, yes, I graduated in June 1970. I moved out of my parents house at that time. I paid my way through graduate school, too. Oh, what a concept. Regimen. Responsibility. Earning your own way. Not indenturing your parents for your own coddled whims.

What a concept?! Oh, yes, I paid off my last of many permutations of student loans was paid off (approximately) 1987. That would be twenty-one years after first accepting that first terrible student loan.
Intentionally dentured servitude for twenty-one years. Wow. What a concept. Oh, yes, the experience was so horrible that I picked up an MFA from UCLA and a Master’s in Human Resources Management from Pepperdine University. Gosh. I paid off all my student loans. It took me twenty-one years. I wonder how that happened?