A typical semester at Temple for an in-state resident costs an average of $15,000. As a freshman, additional costs for books, room and board and a “Standard 10” meal plan brings that cost up to $26,000.
The “Fly in 4” program introduced by President Theobald two weeks ago promises a $4,000 scholarship and four-year graduation guarantee to 500 students in financial need, according to their FAFSA results.
Ray Betzner, assistant vice president for University Communications, said the money is given to students of the lowest financial standing in order to prevent them from having to take additional hours away from their classwork to work an outside job. To assure this, the university will recommend students work only 10 hours a week. Though Betzner said there’s no way the university will keep track of the hours, he said it’ll “become obvious” if students are overworking themselves, risking their scholarships.
But it’s doubtful that a $4,000 cut in a $26,000 yearly rate would deter any student in lower economic standing from working. Those students will still need to work an outside job to pay off $22,000 – a looming number that would motivate any student, not just those in extreme financial need, to work.
So students have to weigh the decision: to keep the $4,000 a year with a limited working schedule with a remaining $22,000 debt, or to work a part-time job while balancing classes to pay off all $26,000.
A student who works a part-time job at 15 hours a week at $7.50 an hour would make slightly more than $4,000 if they just worked from September to May.
To keep the scholarship, Betzner said the students must meet with academic advisers to keep on track and pass all of their classes. However, the admissions website listing the requirements for the “Fly in 4” program says students must “advance annually in academic standing.”
I have a slightly similar scholarship to what the “Fly in 4” program is offering. Each year, I must maintain a high GPA in order to receive $3,000 a year. I do have financial need, so even though the scholarship I have is generous, it has in no way impacted my decision to work.
During my freshman year I found a work study, then worked two jobs during the summer and have continued that same ethos into my sophomore year because I know the amount I’ve been given shaves off only a small amount of my total student debt.
During that time my GPA has dipped slightly, but it was hardly because of time taken away from the classroom to work. I would still spend the same amount of time on schoolwork, while seeking tutoring, as I would if I didn’t work at all. I just worked harder.
The initiative means the university will pay $2 million for the incoming freshman class alone. To raise the money, Betzner said the university won’t accept more incoming freshmen or cut any other costs. Instead, he expects to raise the money from alumni support. Betzner also said there was no doubt they’d be able to raise the money, citing that last year was the university’s “best fundraising year ever.”
“Alumni want to give to students,” Betzner said. “They were students themselves. They know that students sometimes struggle financially.”
Though I don’t doubt the initiative is a positive step, I’m only being a skeptic. At the moment, it’s unclear whether relying on yearly donations will be a sustainable source of funding for the program for years to come. Even though Betzner is confident in this year’s fundraising efforts, the incoming classes will quickly accumulate costs by the millions. Or on some level, is the move just a way to pump up Temple’s retention rates to put on recruiting pamphlets?
Having a job has taught me much more than just being kept inside an academic bubble would. It’s taught me social and time management skills, qualities that will come up in not only college, but throughout my adult life.
Without putting everything I have into both school and work, I’m afraid I wouldn’t get hired with solely academic experience after flying through four years.
Patricia Madej can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.