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In my second year of university, one of my friends, who came from a financially comfortably family, got a part time job tutoring students. After a few weeks, we happened to meet and she asked, "how do you find any time to have a social life?" I told her the truth, I really didn't. Between being a full-time student with the regular 16 credits and 10-14 hour work weeks, I was hard pressed to find time to actually go out and party like Hollywood says I did. If I was spending time with friends, it would just be at home, since I lived with two of them. But how does this translate into the problem of rising tuition?
Easy, time is money. Since there are students who do not have wealth parents trying to work hard and climb the socio-economic ladder (AKA the American dream), they need to work. Some of them work part-time, some full-time, some take a year (or two or three) off to get enough money in order to finance their living expenses. Invariably, many of these students also apply for scholarships, grants, award money, and lastly and most expensively, loans. The financial burden that students face pressure them to finish their degrees as quickly as they can, anyway they can. Some universities, schools, and/or departments also have unit caps, so the students need to finish their work within a certain number of units in order to graduate, otherwise they have basically just wasted their time. But if one is working during most of their non-class time, when are you supposed to do homework, study, or care about the subject? You end up letting some classes slide.
"Oh, but Yann, you're a grad student, so everything you do is of interest to you/your major, you don't need to deal with general ed. requirements!" Not true! I am fortunate enough to not have to worry too much about student debt. In fact, as long as I keep my GTF-ship, I'm good to go, as far as budget goes, but that does not mean I have loads of free time to care about every class I'm in. My unfortunate example happens to be French. I have nothing against French. It's a relatively easy romance language that helps with English and German etymology, and the added bonus of a lot of philosophers and literary critics use French. But I have a thesis, and grading, and conferences, and department functions, and union business, and friends and family to worry about. French does not help me write about terrorists in the German literary tradition as much as I thought it would, but it's a department requirement that I learn a second foreign language to a second year proficiency. Unfortunately on the list of priorities, French 202 is probably the last thing I care about. Why? because I just don't have time. I watch "Wakfu" and listen to Stromae and MC Solaar, but do I care about what question 5 of tonight's homework is? No, do I care if it's right or not? no. I only really care about is passing this class, and the next class, so I can get my degree. 700 out of 1000 points, that's it, nothing else matters. And this is the same situation, if not worse, that other students also face.
If you don't have enough money and are working all of your free time in order to try to pay for school, then you really aren't going to get as much out of the education as others. Hell, if you work enough? or if something terrible at home happens? You'd be lucky to be even getting that degree, ever. This is how tuition translates to education quality. You just don't have time to care about anything else except money, and the school's bursar office does not care about anything except your money.
-Yannleon Chen, MA student and GTF of the Department of German and Scandinavian at the University of Oregon.