A #RealCollege Education Shouldn’t Require Tremendous Sacrifices
When I first chose where I would attend college, my mother disapproved. We did not have the funds or security to be approved for loans, let alone pay for tuition out of pocket. It was a cost neither of us had ever imagined facing. However, I was determined to make ends meet. As a first-generation American and college student I wanted to do it my own way. This was my family’s shot at a future of college-educated generations, and I had to do what felt right to me. This meant attending the college that best matched my future goals and where I truly felt at home, even if that meant that there would be many sacrifices ahead. I decided on Temple University and began my journey towards a #RealCollege education.
My biggest sacrifice was financial. I was an out-of-state student, and despite having competitive grades I was regarded as a second priority to a public state institution. I received a scholarship that covered part of my tuition and was left to compensate for the rest. My tuition costs were in my own hands, making me turn to loan institutions for the remaining sum. Without having even stepped foot into my first college class I was already in debt. This would hang around my head for years to come and impact my future life decisions.
When I finally arrived at college my freshman year, the weight of my financial burden was a consistent one. Just a month before classes began I left my home state and started a new chapter. I came to Temple University alone, the sole student from my high school, but with bounds of hope to accompany me. I also came with a hefty financial obligation to a private loan company, so I had to begin looking for ways to pay that off. Throughout my first month at school, I spent my time job searching and interviewing instead of making new friends. During times when expenses were higher, more dire sacrifices had to be made. When the time came to buy textbooks, I cut costs by skipping meals. I sacrificed getting comfortable at my new school, in my new life, because I had to keep up with its costs.
Once I got a job, I could barely see the few friends I had made. Any free time I had outside of working would go towards studying to ensure I kept my grades up to maintain my scholarship. My life became a routine, and I was constantly telling myself that this was a normal experience, and that the sacrifices were “necessary” in order to get a quality education. I convinced myself that this was part of the learning experience, and that it was shaping me for the future.
Now, as a rising senior looking back at that experience my freshman year, I understand that is the furthest thing from the truth. Making sacrifices that consume your life in the name of a college education should not be such a common experience. A college education should be more accessible to the public, especially to underprivileged communities. Being a first-generation student, I did not know any better, but now I have the knowledge and experience to share with others.
Many tend to focus on the cost of college, which is no doubt a pressing issue in America. The amount of student loans has doubled over the past 2 decades, racking up nearly $1.7 trillion in student loan debt at the end of last year. However, the consequences stemming from this go beyond financial burden. Having to constantly weigh finances against important decisions is not a healthy habit for students. It can quickly get overwhelming, impacting grades as well as social and physical wellbeing. When our leaders neglect to enact change regarding the ongoing student debt crisis, the consequences go beyond surface level. Future generations should not need to make endless sacrifices for an education that everyone should be able to pursue. Instead, we need to push our leaders for change now, before the problem escalates further. This starts through loan forgiveness, freezing tuition price hiking, and, most importantly, accessible resources for those who need it most. Maybe then a freshman can enter college full of excitement for all the experiences to come, instead of being full of dread about how they will afford their next charge.
Gabriela Krants (she/her) is a rising senior at Temple University studying Risk Management & Insurance and Marketing. She currently works at UpwardBound tutoring and mentoring high school students to help prepare them for college.