Equality and Justice: Some oversights in the American University Grant System and How I Paid/Am Still Paying for University

Originally Written in April 2018

I’ve been working since I began university. I was so fortunate in my high school days to have two parents that cared for me as well as they did. They fed me every day. My father did not let me stay up past midnight. While my peers were slaving away at our tower of homework assignments, I rushed to finish them before the bell tolled. I underestimated everything my parents did for me.

When it came time to go to college and I was trying to figure out how loans worked, I asked my mother whose name I should put them under. She responded that they were my loans for my education. She essentially set me free by telling me that it was my life and my responsibilities. I took this idea and ran.

I had my fun, for almost two semesters. I hung out with my new group of friends and delved deep into my classes. But one day, I finally did something I had talked about for months. I got a job. I knew my student loans were far off in the future, but I decided then was the time to start saving for them.

The only reason I was able to even apply to university was because of a scholarship (or some other award money, I don’t quite remember) I got in high school. My parents said they did not have the $400 for application fees for my dorm and university. I had about $450. So, I applied. Thanks to fee waivers for universities and SATs (entrance exams) and just enough award money for extra fees, I was able to attend university.

Now, I receive grants and scholarships in addition to loans (money I have to pay back). I am fortunate, but I am also, in a sense, on my own. I reiterate, that I had everything I could think to ask for while I lived with my parents. They aren’t perfect people, but they were good parents. I could ask for their help now, but it’s my turn to provide for myself.

So, I got that job. Then a month or two later I got another job. The summer after my freshman year in college I took full time classes and full time hours at work. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you might know that this summer job is more than I can handle. It’s very people oriented and I was not. Read the older blogs for details on that.

Either way, I’ve been working myself to my brink for about three years. I am a spoiled child for thinking this is too much, since adults with families and more dangerous jobs are suffering much more than I am. I understand that. Not fully, because I only come close to understanding my situation, but I do my best to sympathize.

That is why I say I’ve been working myself to MY brink. I can only speak for myself. If you have a different situation that is your situation. I can’t speak for that. What I am saying is that I have worked to the point where it impacts, not just my school, but my vision of myself. I’ve left that grocery job in tears. I’ve had panic attacks while bagging a person’s tomatoes. I’ve confronted people in my job as a student manager with a shaky voice. It hurts. Maybe I am weak. Maybe the problem is me.

But no one is giving me free money and I am not asking for it.

So how upset can I really be when others get as much money as I earn from December to May seemingly from the sky? (Background: My roommate, Mariah, just got a school refund for $3,000 out of the blue.)  Their money and my money are different things. Who cares if I had to bleed, sweat, and cry for it? (All things that have happened due to work.) Who cares if they sat on their asses and were given it? I’ve been given money. I wasn’t complaining then. It helped me get to the point where I am working myself dry to not have to ask for it again. Maybe, hopefully, this will be the case with others. Not the bleeding themselves dry. But the providing for themselves part.

 

Equality is inequality. This thought doesn’t seem to make sense until it happens to you. It’s not jealousy. It’s not even anger. It’s a sense of injustice. Because it is what we want and don’t have that seems unjust. I am not terribly broken up about having electricity, or a roof over my head. I have that. I have had that as long as I can remember. But not everyone does. Why does that not upset me? It’s a fleeting thought.

The thing is, life has no great equalizer. (Maybe in death, but nothing in life.) Life is simply chaos. Things are not distributed in an intelligent manner. They are given or worked for. They are random. Nothing is guaranteed. I need to stop wanting and waiting. I need to stop being affected when others are given what I either do not have or have suffered for. It’s not easy.

 

~*~*~

Gosh, I was in a stressful place then. I wrote the above in the middle of my senior year in university. Looking back on it now (three months after graduating), I see it this way:

Essentially, I felt an injustice had occured because my roommate, Mariah, had received $3,000 dollars as an unexpected school refund. (The refunds for that academic year had already been doled out earlier in the year, so this was an extra, unexpected help.) I hadn’t received one. I realized it would take one semester of my on campus job plus one month of my seasonal job to earn as much money as she was just given. It seemed unfair. But that’s the thing. The organizations that give out grants and other seemingly free money do their best to help out students who need it. How? Many base their decision on the student’s parent’s income. Snag here? The assumption that all parents are helping pay for their child’s university fees. 

Mariah’s parents (according to the fact that she got more refunds than I did) had less than mine, but they were helping her more than my parents were helping me. My dad gave me a credit card I shared with him. But I didn’t use it often. Sometimes I’d use it to buy groceries once a month. Or a pizza a couple times per semester, but nothing close to what I myself was paying or taking out loans for my education. Mariah, with the help of her family and government grants/refunds graduated without loans or debt. I owe about $24,000.  

The system doesn’t take into account that sometimes those with less help more than those with more. I’m not villainizing my parents. I know they would have helped more if I’d asked them. But I didn’t. I decided to take charge of my life and that included my tuition. I listened to my mom who said it was my education and my loans. My responsibility. So I didn’t ask. 

And that’s okay. Those who give grants and scholarships help. They do their best to equalize things, even though their best can’t account for every factor. It’s a perk. And it should be seen as such. I stand by my decisions. I think it’s nice when either these organizations or parents offer their help, but I would not sit there and wait for it. If I hadn’t had that scholarship money and application fee waivers to attend university and my parents had refused to pay for SAT tests and all that, I would have gotten a job and attended community college before transferring into university. I wouldn’t have sat at home waiting for a solution. I urge you guys to have a similar attitude.

Don’t wait for help from the sky. If you receive it, great. Use it. But don’t expect it. Expect to work for what you have. Build your own airplane whether your building materials came from your parents, an organization, or your own blood, sweat, and tears. In the end, what matters is that you made it amongst the clouds. Happy flying, friends.

 

 

 

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