Gone are the days where a student can pay for an entire year of college from a summer job at McDonalds, and according to some students at the University of Rhode Island who pay for school themselves, it is becoming even more of an uphill battle.
About 70 percent of students at URI receive some sort of financial aid, whether it be a loan, grant or scholarship. Debt in the United States is at an all-time high, but students like senior communication studies major and business and public relations minor Surya Moreira are using options available to them to help ease the burden.
“Talent Development gives me a grant every year where they basically pay for academics, offer advising, support me financially and provide other benefits, but anything that is leftover, I have to pay on my own,” she said. “I would definitely like to say that its helped me out a lot because other than that, I would have a hard time paying for college.”
Sophomore computer science major Timothy Moran is also taking advantage of chances to save money by joining the National Guard and taking out subsidized loans.
“I have to do my years in the service which isn’t really a problem for me,” he said. “I have to pay back all of my loans, but it’s not going to be that bad, though. I won’t be as unwell as other people are.”
Every semester, Moran accepts his loans and turns in his tuition waivers from the National Guard. Besides that, he has no interaction with Enrollment Services, which provides academic and financial services to current and former students and sometimes faculty.
Director of Enrollment Services Carnell Jones, who is in his third year at the helm of the department, has been combating this problem by implementing an open-door policy where students can walk in at any time without an appointment. The department’s calling center also receives about 130,000 calls a year, the most of any branch at URI. Of the five colleges he’s worked at, Jones said that URI is one of the best he has seen when it comes to informed students and families paying bills they owe.
“Our students are bright and intelligent and sometimes it just takes that extra step of talking to someone,” Jones said. “Not sending them something in the mail, not telling them something rudely on the phone or through e-mail, talking to them. We’re human … Nobody wants to see someone come here and leave and not be able to finish what they started. We deal with all hardships.”
Though balancing academics and paying for school is tough, Jones said that he feels compassion because he was once in the same position as a student paying for school himself. He worked two jobs, had to turn full paychecks over to his school and was in need of financial assistance throughout.
He gives his personal business card with his direct line to everybody that walks through his office and also said he is personally invested in the students at URI even if it is a gamble.
“My message to them is I’ve been where you’ve been before and it’s not only my pleasure, but my duty to help you,” Jones said. “Somehow, someway, we are going to come to a workable resolution.”
Many students agreed that the cost of college is more of a burden than a help, but personally investing in one’s education does have its benefits. Sophomore communication studies and public relations double major and writing and rhetoric minor, Rachel Ricci said it gives her more drive to excel.
“It’s far away right now, but when I look at other people that go to school and their financial aid is outstanding and their parents can pay for it all, it makes me feel a little bit better about myself because I’m doing well in school and it pushes me to work harder,” she said. “I’m investing in myself, that’s what I’m doing here.”
A solution remains to be seen, but Jones said he and his staff will continue to do all they can to make sure students are informed about options that will help them pay for school. His main piece of advice is for students to stay realistic, even if their dreams feel so close and attainable and to stay positive.