Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Pretty Penny

By Frances Israel

There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t read in the newspaper or hear on the news about how the American economy is being managed improperly and how as a result segments of the American stock markets are defaulting. Most cynical Americans believe the devastating economic crisis seems more like a self fulfilling prophecy, ironically, unnecessary around the time of the elections, and that the economic situation is only going to get worse before it becomes better. However, American consumers are suffering due to the ever plummeting U.S dollar. More and more Americans are becoming tight fisted when it comes to coughing up the cash. Many are finding alternative ways to penny pinch to get more for their dollar. For the entirety of the year, the U.S economy fluctuated, varying from good to bad to now worse. The strain on the economy has trickled down and has affected college students, who can no longer pay for school and some of the basic necessities that come with a collegiate education. A friend of mine told me that “students are becoming more frugal but are finding ways to do without,” nowadays more and more college students are forced to choose between paying for books or paying for bills. One LaGuardia student told me that she couldn’t afford the book for one of her classes and has resorted to xeroxing and looking on another person’s book in class. But without the books students need, they can only go so far. Every day, I see more students huddled together by bulletin boards scrambling through papers calling students to buy books as if they were trading on wall street while praying to find a used book, which might be an older revision or in decrepit condition but still cheaper than a book at the college bookstore. Some students leave class early and bolt to the library to borrow books for up to two hours which provides ample time for regular assignments, but will be problematic during midterms and finals. I sprinted to the bookstore the first day of class in hopes of getting a used book for a considerable price. When I got there, it was mayhem; there was an extremely long line, and most of the used books were snatched from the shelves, as if they had just arrived in the first place. ‘’Wow even the used books are still expensive” the guy behind me blurted out while I waited in line for an oral communication’s book, which cost about a hundred dollars. “In the bookstore, you are really blown away by the ridiculously priced books, which the majority of time we don’t even use in class. I heard a person who had already taken the course I am taking gloating about her great experience in the class. I rolled my eyes because now I was late for my job, after waiting in line for an hour to pay for a book I was barely going to use. I don’t know what made me more upset the price of the book or being late for work. “With the state of the economy, I can’t afford to be late or lose this job,” I told myself.

Time is money and money is time. Like, many of my fellow classmates I have a full time job and currently looking for a second one. At my current job, the pay isn’t much, but it helps , and it’s better than getting laid off like thousands of parents and students. During these hard times, you have to be grateful for any job you may get considering the high rates of unemployment. With numerous people out of work, it makes you wonder, if parents and students are not working, who is paying for tuition? Books, tuition, room, transportation, and board necessities and obligations have now become luxuries and priority in a job lost economy. Because of the struggling economy, this has been one of the worst times for tuition increases which have occurred throughout the country. Higher tuition cost is discouraging college-bound teens especially now that loans are not available to all. The loan industry is suffering with tremendous companies like Sallie Mae reporting a loss of $1.6 billion last quarter. Lenders are finding it harder to find investors willing to back private student loans. The government is also cracking down on financial aid because a lot of students were becoming “career students” that continually enrolled in classes and received money from financial aid every semester. The economy is not fit for the poor and the under privileged, it’s hard for the people who do have money so you can only imagine how it’s affecting people who don’t. There’s a bigger division between the wealthy and the poor. Many students find themselves competing with the fortunate students. The middle class is struggling to pay for school and for the kids who went away to college; they are finding it imperative to have two or three jobs to even continue attending school. Most students leave college for a semester to release some of the financial pressures of school, but most never return. Thus, students are finding ways to pay for school, finding themselves sacrificing a lot more than before. This includes not purchasing books, sacrificing sleep to get extra shifts, cutting back on social activities, and not eating properly to save a pretty penny. Even attending community college has become more and more expensive. One of the reasons why students enroll in community college is because it is more affordable than universities, other colleges, and private institutions. No students should ever be denied a college education because they can’t afford it. No student should ever have to make the decision of paying bills versus paying tuition, but let’s face it we have to. I don’t mine the struggle. It is only going to make me work that much harder and be more appreciative of my college education. Nevertheless, the hard economic times are forcing students to think about what is going to happen next, and cause them to worry about where the next dollar is going to come from rather than focusing on their studies. A lot must be sacrificed these days for a pretty penny sometimes the time for academic success.


  1. Thanks for writing about how the economic crisis is affecting students. Reading your essay, I could see myself.

  2. Your article points out just how we as a nation has failed in upholding a fundamental human right: the right to quality education, and, by extension, a chance at a better future.
    Thank you for your voicing your thoughts on this issue.


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