Real Cost of Tuition
By, Spencer Bengoetxea
I am a student here at PCC that transferred from Oregon State University where I spent $22,000 to learn what my major would be. When first moving to University I had an idea that I would study what my brother studies, Computer Science and Mathematics. I moved into the dorms which equivalently cost $800 a month, sharing the room with two other chaps. Week one is class selection week, this is where you are meant to select your classes for the year, already knowing what you want to do apparently. I said to myself, “I guess you are a Computer Scientist that is really good at math;” then the work began.
The first term was hard. I was a little over confident in my ability to take 19 credits and be Hall Council President and be on the frisbee team. I was able to make it work though, and I did not have the time to figure out if I even liked my major. I was proving to myself that I could do all of these things and be successful here at University. “It is your first time out on your own, you are now self reliant, you need to make it.”
The second term I had taken less credits, but the classes were getting harder, Calculus 2, Writing, Computer Science 2, and Piano with my buddy Zach. Also the requirements for HallCouncil were getting out of hand, I was to show up to three meetings a week now, which I missed some to be honest. I remember having a conversation with the director, “Every time you miss one of the meetings for core council (Where all of the hall councils get together to waste three hours of your time to talk about important issues affecting the students, just so you can think about ways to improve the student experience. That would be alright if we didn’t spend two of the hours thinking out loud about the issues.) you cost the dorm $10 of our hall budget”. My response “I spend $400 per credit, so $10 is something I am willing to pay in order to save time for school. I’ll just assign someone to represent me there.”
All of it was getting to be a little much. I had taken on too many things at the same time. I also figured by this point, when I was finally learning new things in Computer Science, I would be excited to go to the classes. I was determined to earn good grades, but I was beginning to feel that I had chosen the wrong major.
The third term at OSU I took the same amount of classes, and continued to get the grades. Ifinished up the year and was looking forward to having the summer off to get a job, earn more money, and take a look back on the year. The pressure would finally be over. The pressure of keeping up with all of the clubs, activities, and earning the grades too.
Over the summer I was working at a car part company, taking pictures of their inventory. I had always enjoyed photography, but I could never do that for a living. One day instead of biking I decided to walk to and from work. On the walk home, I thought about everything that had happened to me over the last year. I had moved from Idaho, worked the summer before college in Portland, gone to university, and was back working again. My budget was $10 a day for food. I had to earn at least $8,000 to go back to University next term. I could do it to, I just had to work 50 hours a week at my rate of $15 an hour after tax, with a budget of $10 a day for food. I just had to put up with the dusty photo room for 12 weeks, then I would be back at university.
Then I could go back to Computer Science? Computer Science. Is that what I wanted? I could change my major to Mechanical engineering and only lose 25% of the work that I did last year. Mechanical Engineering? Or Electrical Engineering? Writing? That would be a loss of over 60% of the year’s work so no. I spent so much money, and was about to do it again, no changes.
The worst thing about the whole thing is that I could have taken the classes of last year anywhere. The first two years of college were so general that I could have taken them anywhere, and probably for less. “Like PCC,” as I walked by a bus stop advertisement. “That person looks really cheesy,” but I wonder how much it costs. When I got how I found that PCC cost one fourth as much as OSU, at $100 per credit. I called my university and paused my major right then. I could always go back. I was not sure if I had made a mistake or not, but now I had $6,000 in my pocket. I could move out of my parents, still work at my job to earn more, all while going to PCC.
The first term I was able to take courses from many majors, withdrawing from some and get the grades for the others. I was able to take the next Winter off in Spain, visiting distant relatives and surfing. I was able to figure out my major by testing out all of my interests, and now I write.
The cost of tuition is directly related to the pressures of a non-exploratory education. Where the student is stuck with their first choice, where they are pressured by the earning of a degree to pay off that aforementioned degree, and where they don’t give themselves the time to question themselves. The first two years of most undergraduate degrees can be taken anywhere, so stop overpaying and give yourself some time to choose right. This is something that your are going to be doing for a while.
If I were to start off at a community college instead of going straight to University I could have saved time and money, all while being able to truly explore the fields of college. This is a lesson that I think every student entering into the college should take to heart. College is expensive and it is very easy to compromise your dreams for the sake of cost, in changing your mind.
When you truly enjoy the field you are in, the work will no longer seem like work, but rather you are working for yourself, to accomplish what you dream.