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Interview with a Senior at the University of Texas in Austin

I interviewed my roommate Natalie, who has taken up 4 part time jobs just to pay for the cost of living in Austin.

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I interviewed my roommate Natalie about her experience with the expense of higher education at the University of Texas.

Natalie is a Senior Marketing major at the University of Texas at Austin. She comes from a middle-class family with two other siblings who are also going to college. Natalie was a straight A student in high school, but despite her grades, did not qualify for many scholarships. Her parents were making just enough money to where they couldn't get much financial aid for college. Her parents decided to take out almost $100,000 in loans to pay for their three kids' tuitions. This has left Natalie feeling guilty about the debt her parents have so she can go to college. She plans on helping them pay off the loans when she gets a job, but doesn't feel confident she'll be making much money when she graduates.

Natalie is responsible for all other costs incurred with college, including rent, food, books, etc. Austin rent and cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years and she's struggling just to make enough to pay rent. As a student realtor, she sees this struggle with many students looking for housing around campus. Many students have to greatly sacrifice quality for cheaper living options. Natalie thinks it's is unfair to be charging students so much. Rent for an apartment in walking distance to campus approaches $1000 a month. In order to keep up with the expenses, she has taken up four jobs- lifeguarding, babysitting, being a student realtor, and helping her dad with his work. She feels overwhelmed by the expenses and often eats ramen or rice and beans to save money. Natalie also feels that she's sacrificing her education in order to make time for all these jobs- to pay for her education. 

She's disappointed with how the system has not helped her or her family and wishes there were more ways to get help paying for college.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

The main insight I gathered from this interview was that sometimes the cost of living around college campuses can be just as much, if not more, than tuition and there aren't many programs in place to help normal students with these expenses. I also feel that the income cutoff for financial aid needs to be revisited because many middle class families are left with debt they can't pay off.

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