Don’t Work, Just Study
By Gabriella Calabro
Debt is one four-lettered word that more and more college students are finding themselves repeating. With private school tuitions rising each year, more students are opting for public universities and community colleges.
While the media focuses on the large population of students who can’t afford college, no one talks about the smaller, more fortunate group of students that are largely unaffected by the financial stress that most other students face. Parents of these students do not want them to worry about paying for college so they take on the extra stress themselves. A student’s involvement in paying for college varies from family to family.
Louis Erazo, a 19 year-old freshman at a New York City private college said, “My parents had me do the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), but that’s only because it’s on the computer. I do most of the computer-based stuff at home.”
While some students have constant fights and struggles with their parents about how the school bills will be paid, some students only have to worry about a small portion of the college tuition payment process.
“My parents don’t talk to me about numbers. They just always say that I need to do well because they’re paying a lot of money for it,” says Max Hirsch, 18, a college freshman.
Not having to pay for college is not only beneficial for the students enrolled, but is even more helpful for those who have graduated. Alexandra Yacullo, a 25 year-old graduate student says, “I don’t have a stable job. I’m also going to grad school and getting married this summer and there’s no way I would have been able to pay back those loans and been able to do anything else.”
Many young adults find themselves in the same position, or much worse off than Yacullo. For those recently graduated, finding a job could be extremely tough in today’s economy. And with loan payments due six months after graduation, many college-educated adults could find themselves working minimum wage jobs just to get by.
A poll by About.com shows that 24% of parents plan to pay for their child’s college education with the help of loans and grants, and 28% plan on paying with the help of scholarships and having their child work. Only 12% of parents said they would not pay for college because they could not afford it. Although the poll makes it seem that more parents are paying for college, the truth is that as the economy continues to spiral downward, so does a parent’s ability to help.
While most college students find themselves working one full-time or a few part-time jobs, there are others who get money just for being students. They may have the luxury of not having to pay for school, but what about other expenses? Erazo’s tuition includes a meal plan, and his parents have put him on a budget.
“They give me $300 a month,” says Erazo. “If I choose to work it’s because I want extra spending money. But my parents have never told me I had to get a job.”
Like Erazo, Hirsch also receives an allowance, “My parents put money in my account every month, probably about $500.” When asked if he was required to have a job, Hirsch laughed and said, “No, they’ve never told me I needed to work. I don’t have to have a job.”
Some young adults may find $300-$500 hard to live on, but it’s important to realize that this money is likely to be spent on shopping or going out. This money is not spent on phone bills or books because Erazo and Hirsch are given extra money by their parents to buy anything for school, or cleaning supplies or even groceries.
Unlike scholarships, parents often do not have a strict or clear set of guidelines that requires their children to work hard to keep getting their money. “My parents threaten that if I don’t do well they’ll stop paying,” says Erazo. ”But they know the reality is that a 19 year-old cannot pay for a private education in Manhattan, and maintain a social life, work life, and do well in school.”
Yacullo said that her parents wanted her to transfer after seeing that she was not performing well at her first college. “I originally went to Penn State, but I partied a lot, and didn’t really do well so my parents and I talked and decided it would be better to go a school closer to home and buckle down.”
Looking back, Yacullo offers some advice to students like Erazo and Hirsch. “Don’t take advantage of your parents. You’re a lot luckier than a lot of students. Work as hard as you can and don’t fool around. It’s one thing to waste money, but it’s completely horrible to waste an education.”