Friday, June 13, 2008

Financial Aid Fail

So I have about a couple thousand in income a year. Blame being a full-time Philosophy student and an activist. Note to those who are interested: being a good person and learning about Shit That Matters does not pay the bills well. Thus, I live off financial aid, the contributions of my father to my tuition necessitated in my parents' divorce agreement, my scholarship, and my paltry savings from my last stint in the work force. I must also claim my mother's income on my FAFSA. Even when combined with mine, and the contributions of my father, our income is still significantly lower than the average American household, but not low enough that I qualify for anything. Namely, if it wasn't for my academic achievements, I would be completely and utterly fucked.

This summer, I had the bright idea that I should study abroad. Like all "middle-class" white students (I lied, I'm actually working class according to this diagram), I assumed that "seeing the world" was an intrinsic part of the college experience. Also, I'm desperately, and futilely, trying to learn French. The largest party of my heritage is completely (and inbred-ly) French and French-Canadian. My father never bothered to learn French from his fluent mother, or she never bothered to teach him. Learning French was a bit like reclaiming my roots. My entire motivation is hardly that pure, however. I am achingly jealous of my more linguistically talented friends who are fluent in Spanish, Chinese, or Portuguese, German, or Japanese.

Immersing myself in Quebec would be the fastest, and most enjoyable, way to learn French. I would also knock out most of the remaining credits standing between me and my French minor in the process. So, with promises from the International Studies Office that there was a lot of aid available, I made the $350 deposit and started shopping for airfare and applying for aid.

Here I am, about three weeks out from leaving, and I find myself at an impasse. My university, in a remarkable display of intelligence, misappropriated funds the previous year that it now has to pay back to the federal government. Instead of reducing the bloated and overpaid administrative costs, the university decided to hand down the charges to the students by increasing fees and decreasing grants and loans. Marvelous! How disgusting it is that I go to the second largest public university in America, and it still hasn't grasped the fact that it's purpose is to educate my poor ass instead of building second homes in the Foothills for the dean?

So this rad fem will have to cancel her trip. With a combined income of less than $30,000, no scholarships for the summer, and a bill of over $5000, the university "generously" offered me a grand total of $1000 in federal loans for the summer. They obviously expect me to fly to Canada, but live out of a cardboard box, beg for food, and learn magic to make the tuition and program fees disappear. This is the state of our education system!God forbid I enjoy my college years with a little excursion to somewhere besides the hell hole known as Arizona. It's times like these I wish my ancestors had stayed in Europe or Canada where I could actually get some funding for my poor ass.

Now, I won't even get my initial deposit back for some bullshit "administrative" costs. Although, I have found that some offices are remarkably willing to forgive "administrative costs" if you come into their office and make a big stink about the research you did for the university, your impressive academic record, your family's history with the university, name drop, and vaguely hint that you might have a lawyer than you can't afford in reality.

If it wasn't for the fact that I help my mother pay the mortgage, this kind of shit would make me transfer universities, professional ties at mine be damned. If there's one thing I have little patience for it is public institutions swindling me out of money because they misled me about the extent of the costs and failed to mention that they are more interested in paying their own bloated salaries than educating their paying students.

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