Friday, October 21, 2005
Six Weeks

That's about how long I've got left here. Maybe a little more... but not much. And between you and me, I'm counting the fucking hours. Got big plans, friends, plots and schemes to take over the world. But more on that as it happens.

For the moment, I'm just revelling in the fact that, once again, it seems my timing was exactly right:

Legislation working its way through Congress would offset Katrina recovery and Gulf Coast reconstruction with $50 billion in spending reductions, including higher-education cuts of anywhere from $7 billion to $12 billion, largely from student loan programs.

(...)

Even though the typical graduate already faces $15,500 in college debt, lawmakers look to cut federal subsidies to lenders and raise fees and interest rates on student loans - changes that could add more than $5,800 to the cost of repayment.

(source)


$15,500? Pfffft, don't make me laugh. I openly mock your pathetic student debt; MY student debt would eat $15,500 as a light mid-morning snack, a little something to carry it through the post-coffee, pre-lunch blahs. Like the financial equivalent of melba toast (maybe with a little cheese.)

Still, as far as financial aid is concerned, I'm barely scraping by this term; I expect that if the federal loans were cut back, I wouldn't have been able to come back at all. I mean, I completely support reconstruction spending on the Gulf Coast, but surely there are other places we could cut back first? Like -- oh, hell, I don't know -- maybe bridges in Alaska? Or maybe Halliburton could overcharge us slightly less? Or maybe we could blow up 10% fewer little brown kids this year? I mean, I'm just throwing these ideas out there... tell me if I'm getting ridiculous.

But still, I know a few good kids who wouldn't be back here if major cuts were enacted. And that would be a shame, because the really interesting kids are already a dying breed on this campus. Originally, this school was founded for the really interesting students -- it was started by WWII vets who had GI Bill money coming, but who didn't want to join the niave youngsters at the traditional universities. It was very much a do-it-yourself kind of place, and there are still vestiges of those origins -- for example, the tutorial structure, in which upperclassmen get an hour per week of a professor's undivided attention (and most of us have at least a couple of tutorials with different professors every week.) It's more intense than a typical college classroom -- lots of pressure to keep up with your work -- but there probably aren't many schools in the US where I could get a BA based on work in Haitian Vodoun, ritual structure, Asian cinema, documentary film, an obscure 50s avant-garde filmmaker and an equally-obscure film exhibitor. No matter how you look at it, that's pretty cool.

But this place is changing. I was talking about it with one of my professors just yesterday -- I told her that, having gone away and returned after seven years "out there," I was dismayed to find that the student body had changed so much. A lot of the most interesting people I attended with the first time I was here, I don't think those people are even possible here anymore. The farm kids from Maine and Vermont can barely get their foot in the door; the people from complex and unusual backgrounds are gone; the students with terrible grades but obvious talent just can't compete in admissions. We once had some students with interesting stories -- the guy who'd been homeless for a few years, the middle-aged foreigner with a wife and a baby, the mulletted, furry-boot wearng, Kool-Aid sipping asshole who'd worked in a furniture factory before going back to school, discovering that he loved art, hooking up with a Classics professor, and living in Italy for two years studying art restoration -- where the hell is that guy? (The specific guy I'm talking about is a school teacher now -- and who wouldn't want someone like that teaching their kids? -- but I'm asking, where's his 2005 equivalent?)

I seriously doubt that I'd be possible here now myself. On applying, my grades were good (if patchy in places), and my test scores were stellar, but my educational background was a fractured mess... and then, of course, there was that whole drop-out issue. At the time, this college was as good a match as any I'd have found, but now, I don't think I'd even get an interview. My imperfect, frustrating, no-frills, DIY college has become a Patagonia fleece-wearing, ski resort-frequenting, microbrew-swilling boutique college. Rumor has it that "need-blind admissions" has become a joke -- they're really only interested in students whose parents can foot the whole bill (unless the student in question is brown-skinned, in which case they can trade in their tuition by tacitly agreeing to serve as a prop for college brochures and prospective student visitors.)

I'm something of a hermit here these days. I'm grouchy, it's true -- I don't have anything against the kids who surround me every day, but I just don't care to interact with them much. There are a few exceptions, oddballs who've managed to worm their way into my favor, but for the rest -- no offense, but I don't want to know any of you. I didn't come here to make friends, I came to tie up the loose ends of my twenties; now, please, leave me alone. I'm happier in my solitude than listening to you babble.

Bah. Humbug.

I do miss my friends, though. And hey, soon I'll be going back to them (or some of 'em, anyway), freshly launched into my fourth decade with a whole new agenda and a tidy foundation on which to begin building something for myself. I've got student debt, sure, but otherwise I'm clear; no obligations, no baggage, no entanglements, no worries, no regrets. Seems to me that's a pretty promising place to be.
8:41 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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