Once I graduate from college, I will be signing away my first-born child to CU to pay off my loans. Yes, it’s unfortunate, but this seems to be the price I have to pay for going to a renowned university and pursing degrees in the two fields I enjoy.
Colorado is one of the states with a very small percentage of the budget going towards higher education. This can put students in a very difficult position. Not only does it mean that less money goes from the state to the school, but it also means that the rising costs are put squarely on the shoulders of the students. In the past year alone CU’s tuition went up about 14 percent.
My parents aren’t paying for any of my college. This might come as a shock to some, but I am fully in charge of paying for my own education. And for my first two years I got incredibly lucky when it came to the game called “applying for financial aid”. My parent’s income was low enough that I was receiving a generous amount of free money. In fact, it paid for my tuition.
Last January was filled with dread. FAFSA season was almost upon us. My parent’s income had gone up, and so had my own. I was worried about how this would affect the amount of money I would receive.
I quickly formulated a plan to beat the system. I figured that I would file my taxes as an independent so that it would reflect on my FAFSA application that I was supporting myself.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that it isn’t possible to do that. If you are under the age of 22, you have to use your parents, regardless of if they are helping you or not. FAFSA then calculates the expected family contribution based on both of your incomes from the year before. This gets reported to CU and the financial aid office decides how much money you are offered.
This system isn’t fair. What about the students whose parents were contributing nothing? Sure, on paper it looks like my parents should be helping me, but they definitely aren’t.
I got my financial offer in May, and unsurprisingly, CU was offering me $5,000 in loans. This wouldn’t even cover the year’s tuition, much less books or any sort of living expense. My parents had the option of taking out a parent loan, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
I was left facing some hard questions that I didn’t want to answer. First, I had to take a hard look at CU and decide if it was worth the cost. My mom suggested that I switch to a cheaper school or move home. I was horrified at this idea.
I tried to look at every possible angle. The financial aid office just shrugged helplessly when I asked for help. The banks wouldn’t give me a loan because I’m too young.
After much thought, I decided to work more to cover the tuition difference, but stay put at CU. Even if I am paying through the nose, I can’t imagine going to college anywhere else. I like the life I have built here.
I think my dad put it best while we were discussing the situation:
“If you feel that you are getting a great education and a life-changing experience, it doesn’t matter what you’re paying.”
So CU, hand me a pen because I’ve got a first-born to sign away.