Let’s say someone offered you the following deal: work for me, doing hard physical labor on the overnight shift, and I’ll pay your tuition so you can go to school during the day.
Would you take the deal? If you did, you might have a life like the one The Atlantic describes:
One day last week, for instance, [Alexis McLin] attended a lab from 3 p.m. to 6:45, went to dinner with her mother, and then at midnight went in to work at UPS, where she sorts packages from midnight to 4:30 a.m.
McLin, 21, is training to be a teacher, and so after she got off work and had some breakfast, she drove to an elementary school at 7:40 a.m and observed classes for four hours. That afternoon she attended a parent-teacher conference, capping off more than 24 hours straight of work and school with no sleep.
College students are known for pulling occasional all-nighters, but the Metropolitan College program requires consistent, regular overnight shift work, under the assumption that students will be as productive sorting packages at 4 a.m. as they will be completing their chemistry homework at 4 p.m. (Metropolitan College is not actually a college; it’s a program that helps students get free tuition at various Kentucky schools while working for UPS. While enrolled, the city pays half of their tuition and UPS pays the other half.)
For some students, this schedule works and allows them to complete a college education. For others, as The Atlantic notes, the time crunch is unsustainable:
[Ilya Lyalin] had to quit the UPS job after he decided to study engineering. The classes and homework required to study calculus and physics required Lyalin’s full brain power, and he found it was all but impossible to have the capacity to do the course work on no sleep. He did it for one semester, and it was hell. He’d work until five a.m. and then sleep until calculus class at 9 a.m., and be up for the rest of the day studying and working. The worst was every Tuesday when there would be a calculus test at 8 a.m. His GPA began to tumble.
“It was two hours of sleep every night for the whole semester,” he said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
It’s been almost a month since President Obama spoke about improving college education opportunities during his State of the Union address, and now we have a new development: on March 10, the White House released a Fact Sheet on the new Student Aid Bill of Rights: Taking Action to Ensure Strong Consumer Protections for Student Loan Borrowers.
It’s the holiday season again, which means it’s that time of year when universities try to raise more money from their alumni. Every year around this time, I start getting a call every day from an unknown number. At first, I ignore it, thinking it’s a wrong number. But I eventually realize that it’s someone calling from one of the universities I’ve attended and that they are not going to stop until they talk to an actual person.
It’s rare to hear stories about college students taking out private student loans from a lender like Sallie Mae and then beating them in court after being hounded and sued for money after defaulting on the loans. I was able to lock-in low interest rates on the private student loans I took out, but Stefanie Gray wasn’t able to get a cosigner on her loans (both her parents passed away when she was younger) and was given “credit card-like interest rates.” That was the beginning of Gray’s troubles, but this story has a happy ending.
Student loan debt is exploding. It has grown so much and so fast that it not only crushes millions of young people, but it also has started to weigh down our entire economy. Total nationwide student debt now stands at $1.2 trillion, more than the total credit card debt owed by everyone in America.
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is now the president at Purdue University, and rather than raise tuition to make up for state cuts on college funding and rising administrative costs, he’s frozen tuition for the first time in 36 years and looking for ways to save (it should be noted that as governor, Daniels cut millions in state higher education funding, so he knows that to keep tuition from rising, he’ll have to find savings from the inside). Daniels has started by cutting the cost of student food by 10 percent and consolidating administrative jobs, but according to the Wall Street Journal, Daniels is also considering what students actually get out of college and encouraging departments to devise a program where students can graduate within three years, instead of four.