Crisp bills rustling in your pockets turn into loose change, which then turns into nothing. It has all been voluntarily, albeit grudgingly at times, turned over to the book retailers, meal plans and other expenses. Temple students know how to rant about money, because there just does not seem to be enough cash to go around.
In economics class, students learn about the characteristics of a nation’s economy, like the opportunity cost. In common language, it is the cost of what one gives up in order to acquire what is being sought after. At the end of four years, the degree is a cherished commodity for Temple’s graduates.
In terms of funding one’s higher education, the opportunity cost may be studying, or it may be having a good time. Students sometimes have to decide to concentrate on earning a paycheck or focus solely on classes.
“I had a very hard time working and going to school,” Erika Caler said, describing her experience as a journalism undergraduate. The married co-ed is now enrolled as a first-year law graduate student. It was very difficult for her to make time for working to support her education. Her lengthy hours often limited her studying, and a demanding schedule left her running between class and work with barely enough time to catch her breath.
Partying, hanging out with friends, or joining a club were prohibited due to the hectic demands on Caler’s availability.
“I really feel like I missed out on certain things because I had to work and [go to] school. There are only so many hours in the day,” Caler said.
Mya Douglass, a transfer student from Philadelphia Community College, sympathized with Caler’s assessment. Currently, her attention is completely geared toward her 13-credit course load. Douglass was worried juggling academic pressures and holding down a full-time job would be too difficult. She divulged her secret to covering her expenses.
“My mom,” Douglass said. “That’s the truth. She said as long as I stayed in school, she would pick up the other half.”
Psychology freshman Chris Brown also credited his mother’s support as a means to enable him to pursue his education. Despite her help, he did admit he still had not purchased all of his required readings because they cost too much. Brown has been borrowing books from other classmates to offset falling behind. He said finding a job would be dependent on his current schedule.
“I would prefer to be making money. But college is a means to an end. It’s the best of both worlds,” Brown said.
Part-time student and mother Laura Johnston found the challenge of balancing school and work daunting but necessary. She works as a server, but her tips do not cover all costs, and she has had to take out loans that have left her in debt.
Many students have used loans to cover their tuition and living costs via a refund check. Emile Vantrieste, Administrative Assistant to the Director of Student Financial Services, has encountered many students who have difficulty figuring out how to get loans. The SFS standard fare is the Stafford Loan, which can either be subsidized or unsubsidized.
For Laura Johnston, however, the future is clouded by financial constraints, much like her present circumstance.
“I have to pick and choose which books I’m going to buy and which I’m going to wait for,” the journalism major said. The sacrifice of multitasking being a mother, employee and a student is taxing.
“I have to work so I don’t have time to do all the college things like homework,” Johnston said.
Communications Program Director Scott Gratson recognized the overall ordeal students sometimes have to go through. The academic adviser and teacher has listened to many students detail their financial problems. Gratson is not without sympathy and offers understanding and leeway, but only if the problem is addressed early.
“One thing that is really key, truly vital, is having an open dialogue between professors and students,” he said. Gratson stressed that students needed to come forward early in the semester with other demands that can interfere in their course schedule.
“We are very sensitive to a lot of students’ needs, but we demand our students be responsible,” he said. “If someone is looking for coddling, don’t come here.”
Students are constantly alternating long shifts, sleepless nights spent studying, and maintaining their GPAs. Temple University has shown understanding by offering jobs to cash-strapped students. These employment opportunities help to put extra money in students’ pockets. However, conditions of good grades and exceeding weekly work limits do apply. This policy is to ensure that students are actually profiting from what their tuition is underwriting.
While there may not seem to be an immediate benefit to a grueling college curriculum, the consensus across campus was still optimistic. A popular relief was that rewards and future opportunities of current costs would turn into endless dividends.
“I look at it as a long-term investment that’s going to keep paying back,” Caler, a graduate student, confidently predicted.
Until that day arrives, her currentfrustrations, and those shared by the rest of student body, will be just another rant.
Stephanie Guerilus can be reached at email@example.com.