Hello friends! I hope you are all doing well. Haven’t blogged in a while and to be honest, I haven’t had a good rant in a while, either. And at the mo’, I am quite peeved. So, wanna hear a rant? (Or read one, I guess, if we’re going accurate.) Then just sit back and get ready. Maybe grab some snacks if you like, because I feel like this will at least be interesting to read. (I got my bag of Tostitos and half a bottle of Sprite, personally; didn’t want you to feel left out.)
So, I’m in college, as many of you know. ‘Bout to start my junior year. And right around this time of year, they announce the financial aid you will receive for next term…as well as your bill. Needless to say, after taking out two loans and receiving a grant, I am still roughly 1300 short. Not to mention that my housing and meal plan are covered through my job as a Resident Assistant (thank the Lord). And I’m also very lucky that my parents pay for the difference between what aid I get and loans I take out, though Lord knows that isn’t easy for them to do. I really hope I can save up enough to be able to pay for it all on my own for one term, to help them out and let them know how much I appreciate them and all the help they’ve given. But that is not the point of this blog. The point is that after cutting down around 4,000 through my job, two loans and a 2,300 grant, I am *still* 1300 short to cover only ONE term of my junior year. After my family and I barely manage to scrape together enough money to cover that, we’ll have to turn around and do it all over again for next term.
So my point isn’t that college is expensive. Of course it is expensive. My point is that is is absolutely ridiculous how impossible it is for an average person to afford it and how frustrating that *fact* — and the notion that that statement is indeed a fact — is.
To be fair, my tuition is a bit more expensive this term than it usually is — usually we’re only short a grand or so — because I’m taking 18 credit hours instead of 15. This is because I’m taking a graduate level English class, one that I fought to get into as a junior. I’m not saying this to brag or anything of that nature, but I consider this a huge accomplishment and I think it is a big deal, and will really help me push forward, offering me a lot of opportunities that I’m stoked about. But instead of feeling like it is an accomplishment, it feels like a burden, because now my tuition costs even more. I obviously understand that my tuition would go up when I take more credit hours. The issue I have is trying to afford it.
I started searching for scholarships tonight to try and make that difference a little less daunting for my family. And that is when the frustration began. I dunno if you realize it, but I have found that it is near impossible to find a scholarship that applies to a 20 year old, white girl majoring in English. I am quite average when it comes to scholarship eligibility, which means that there are practically NO scholarships that I can apply for. Yet I am a full time student working a full time job year round, maintained a GPA of at LEAST 3.5 my entire college career, plus been involved in numerous clubs and a camping group for basketball. I have a plan of what I want to do in life and where I want to go, and have taken steps to get there. Yet as each semester becomes more expensive the older I get and the less scholarships I can find, the more loans I am forced to take out and the harder it gets to actually stay at the University I love to obtain the degree that I *need* in order to be able to pay off the loans I took out to get it in the first place! It is the ultimate Catch-22 and honestly, I dunno if it is going to work out in my favor at the end.
I am just frustrated at the fact that I work hard to get the grades I get and work hard at my job. I work hard to do the best I can and be the best that I am able to be, yet it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough that my Dad can barely walk because he has worked for the past 30+ years in the most extreme weather, building houses in order to support his family. Yet he still goes out and works everyday, selfless and persistent. In isn’t enough that my Mom easily prolly works 60+ hours a week, taking all the overtime she can, just to make sure there is food on the table and that we can afford to get my brother’s insulin. It isn’t enough that I chose to not go home this summer to see the family I rarely see, instead staying at my University and getting a full time job, just so I could make money to save up so I can hopefully pay for the spring term’s tuition on my own. Yet on paper, FASFA says that we’re fine, that we’re expected to be able to put at least 5,500 towards my college bills. I dunno how they come up with those numbers, but they are so flawed and ridiculous, it makes me sick. Do they not realize how much insulin costs? Do they not realize that my parents are trying to support a family of five in an economy that makes it hard to support a family of two? Do they not realize how many hidden fees the University throws at you, from the technology fee to undefined “additional costs”? And don’t even get me started on how much the books costs, the most expensive of which the University requires you to buy through General Education courses, which you must take in order to graduate!!
I know this just seems like a lot of bitching from a girl that in all honesty, does have it really good. I am very lucky to attend such an accredited University, to be taking courses that interest me, to be pursuing a degree that I am passionate about from instructors that are brilliant and amongst friends who I cherish. Yet college is supposed to be the time of your life. It is supposed to be the time where you learn about yourself, learn about the world and get all the experiences that would have been otherwise impossible. I would love to study abroad to a foreign country for a semester, like England or New Zealand, and practice my travel writing and open up another avenue for jobs after I obtain my degree. But I can’t because it is too expensive and I can’t take out the loans, nor afford to not work at my job for a whole semester. And they say, “Oh, just do it after college, you’ll have time!” No, I won’t. I have to get a job so I can start paying off the loans that will enchain me for the rest.of.my.life. Because of the financial restrictions and the crazy amounts of money required to get a piece of paper that says you’re good at what you studied, I am going to miss opportunities that would have been open to me had I had the financial stability for it. And I know I am not alone in that fact. I just lost a best friend because she had to transfer back home to save money. And that wasn’t easy for her and it is going to drastically change her life plan. And though I have no doubt she will do amazing in her new school, that isn’t fair to her to be denied the chance to pursue her dreams and continue her education because she isn’t up the standards FASFA thinks she should be. And it isn’t fair to me.
And I’m sure plenty of people can rationalize this for me and explain why this has to be the way it is. I’m sure plenty of people think this post is ridiculous and pompous and uninformed; think I’m just bitching because I’m not rich. But I hope you don’t see it that way. I’m not mad because I don’t have the latest IPhone or because I get my jeans from Target. I could seriously care less about that.
I’m tired of constantly being stressed out about a number, about being scared to check my bank statement because I know it will never be enough. I’m tired of having to chose between going out with friends to eat pizza and watch a film or staying in for the night because I don’t want to spend the money. I’m tired of seeing the look of pain on my Mom’s face each time I tell her the amount we owe my University, being forced to watch as she takes more overtime, watch as my Dad works from sunup to sundown, just so they can send me to the University of my dreams while still supporting not only my two younger siblings, but themselves as well. I’m tired of not being able to help them. I’m tired of not being able to find aid because I’m just your average, white, female student. I’m tired of working so hard and it never being enough. And I’m tired of watching it happen to everyone I know in college to varying degrees and extremely tired of not knowing how on Earth to change it, to fix it, to do something.
So that’s my rant. I think our school system and how it is paid for, financial aid and loans and everything in between or related to those topics, is completely messed up, to keep it PG. It blows my minds and gives me a headache to think about. Especially when I have no idea what we could possibly do to change it. But I think something needs to happen. I don’t want my kids to go through the same stress I have, that my family has, that my friends have, that you have.
We deserve better than that.