"The college affordability dream is dead for these students" notes that the median debtor now owes $29,400 and includes this section relevant to the teaching of creative writing:
Lucy Parks, 18, enrolled at New York University in 2012 armed with a $60,000 college fund — the fruit of decades worth of her parents’ diligent saving — and a $30,000 annual scholarship from the school itself.
NYU is one of the most expensive universities in the country, running more than $60,000 a year for a full-time student, including room and board. After applying her scholarship money, she still had to pay $30,000 a year for tuition, room and board. For Parks, who wanted to take advantage of the school’s unique creative writing program, NYU was her first and only choice.
“I didn’t want to sacrifice my dream simply because I may not have enough money,” she says. To make ends meet, Parks worked three part-time jobs and eventually moved into an apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn with two friends to save money on housing."
“There were some unpleasant periods when I wasn’t working and I would run out of money and I wouldn’t eat,” she says. “Another issue is that when you have to work 20-plus hours a week, your schoolwork takes a major hit. So does your social life."
When her college funds dried up in sophomore year, she went to the school’s financial aid office for help. She left with $2,000 in grants and advice to take out more loans. Rather than take on more debt, Parks, who has a 3.75 GPA, decided to drop out. It was a decision she didn't make lightly, and she says she may enroll at a more affordable college sometime in the future. In September, she’ll move with a friend to Atlanta and try to find part-time work until something more permanent comes along.
“That kind of debt severely limits the amount of things I could do with my life,” she says. “I want to continue educating myself, but I don’t want to pay $60,000 a year for it.”
When I was 18, I ditched my math/comp-sci leanings soon after high school graduation, and more than anything I wanted to read Western classics. So early in college, I ignored my father's advice about choosing a more vocational track and read widely from the traditional European canon. After my two-year MA with a 9K stipend, I didn't listen again when he told me if I wanted to get anywhere teaching college I would have to get a PhD (he had one semester of a PhD program under his belt although for years I thought he was ABD and even proudly used that expression as a teenager). Instead I drifted into adjunct work, embraced it, in fact, because I greatly enjoyed teaching, and I could continue to pay back my student loans and support myself in modest fashion and not have to return to car sales after taking a meagerly paid vacation (the stipend) from harder work. I still support myself in a modest fashion although sometimes I get a chuckle thinking about what some of my students would think of the primary residence I rent or the 12-year-old vehicle I drive (which could easily be a 20-year-old car had that one not unfortunately been rear-ended last summer).
Anyway, lives take all kinds of twists and turns, so it's hard to say what will happen to Lucy Parks, but I hope her involvement with N.Y.U. (well regarded as one of America's leaders in academic capitalism both home and abroad) does not prove catastrophic to her life's finances or long-term plans. It sounds like this particular young writer made the smart move of leaving, and I only wish she had recognized before she enrolled that there are enthusiastic, conscientious instructors teaching creative writing at almost every state school in the country (typically, you can get in-state tuition after a full year of state residence) as well as private universities offering better financial aid.
Affordable college should be a national priority, but only some of our politicians seem aware of this.
If any young writers reading this would like advice on writing, submitting, publishing, or trying to survive in a world where it often appears as if the game is rigged against them, find me online and drop me a line. I'll answer for free.