The students are on the move, and they’re ANGRY!
In case you missed it, let me fill you in. At over 100 college campuses country wide –including University of Utah — students have banded together to protest, joined under the hashtag #millionstudentmarch.
Their demands are simple:
- Free College
- Erasure of ALL student loan debt
- $15/hr. Minimum wage for jobs on all college campuses.
Now before you get your knickers all twisted up and outta sorts, let’s hear this out.
College is expensive and has been getting increasingly more so – this isn’t a surprise, it’s been happening for as long as I can remember. The protests surrounding tuition aren’t new either; I was living in Riverside when UC:R students protested over the same problem five years ago.
The argument is that tuition costs are prohibitively expensive, and that it’s impossible to graduate without carrying a “debt sentence.” Indeed the average student loan debt upon graduation is around $30,000. Basically students are protesting and making demands because they feel like there is no other way to solve this problem.
I’d like to present myself as anecdotal evidence to the contrary:
A typical school day for me goes as follows:
- 5:15 a.m. – Wake up. Immediately regret this decision. Convince self that showers make everything better. Shower. Hate self for lying about showers.
- 5:30 a.m. – Get dressed in the dark as quietly as possible so as to not wake my sleeping wife. (On a good day my socks will match. Today is not that day.)
- 6:00 a.m. – Clock in at work. Spend the next 8 hours (no lunch break) working.
- 2:00 p.m. – Rush to school, praying for no traffic and good weather because I’m already late to class. Attend classes back-to-back for 6 hours, though usually the last class lets out a bit early. (Not even the professors want to be at school that late.)
- 7:30 p.m. – Drive home. Cook dinner and spend around 30 minutes watching Netflix.
- 8:30 p.m. – Homework, average around an hour and a half per night.
- 10:00 p.m. – Reheat dinner for my wife, who’s just walking in the door from her day of work/school. Talk to wife about day, make-out a bit, brush teeth and get ready for bed.
- 10:45 p.m. – Go to bed.
- 11:00 p.m. – Actually fall asleep, maybe.
At age 24, I am on track to graduate in a month from Utah Valley University with an undergraduate degree. In total, I will have $2,200 of student loan debt.
I didn’t miss a zero there. Just $2,200 of student loans, which will be paid off before I am even required to start making payments on them.
I have an amazing wife and a big, loving, supportive family. But let me be clear: aside from 3 Pell Grants of less than $1,000 dollars each (a HUGE help, to be sure. I’m not opposed to financial aid.) I have paid for all my tuition, books and – since I got married – my housing costs. I have had no scholarships, and I told my parents I didn’t want them paying for my college.
I did this while never making the coveted $15/hr.
You see, my philosophy on debt is that it’s like picking up after a dog’s ‘surprises.’ It stinks. But sometimes you’ve gotta do it, and you really don’t want it to start piling up.
This attitude towards debt shaped my entire life and how I approached college:
I started taking college courses over the summer during high school from UVSC (now UVU) because they were cheaper for high school students. I started a job cleaning hotel rooms at age 16 and aside from an LDS Mission, I haven’t stopped working. I mastered my current job and endeared myself to my employers so that they would be understanding of my school schedule: I made myself an asset, not a liability. Because of that, I get to work 6:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., allowing time for school in the evening. Working full time has slowed down my schooling, but it’s possible. And I haven’t had to sink myself into debt to do it.
Instead of applying to universities across the country I went to one that allowed me to live at home (before marriage) and pay in-state tuition rates. I have taken a total of 1 summer semester off since starting my Bachelors because tuition isn’t as expensive in the summer, and parking is free.
I eat a lot of Ramen.
I didn’t go to a prestigious university, I couldn’t even really tell you which school in the country has the best program for my major. I didn’t pick a school based on what I wanted to do, I picked a school based on what I could afford.
I know that the green UVU seal on my degree won’t impress as many employers as one from an Ivy League or Private school, but it’s enough for me to get a career, so it’s good enough.
I know that I am incredibly blessed, and I’m not saying my situation applies to everyone (I’m anecdotal evidence, remember?). What I am saying is that college, while expensive, is not out of reach. It doesn’t have to carry a debt sentence, and it’s not on somebody else to pay your way.
And so I guess I am also on a march, but mine isn’t taking me to the picket line and it doesn’t involve a loudspeaker. My march includes not making demands of others when I can do it for myself.
Interestingly enough only around 65 people attended the protest at University of Utah, a school of over 30,000. Certainly there are more students than that who detest student debt at U of U, so what that says to me is:
I’m not marching alone.