a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Missing: poor kids in college

Home away from home came in the form of a love seat for California University of Pennsylvania freshman Kody Wisilosky of Connellsville, Pa., not shown, above, to park in to study or play video games in his dorm. (Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter)

By Scott Beveridge

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – It struck me last week while reporting on move-in day at California University of Pennsylvania that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to attend college as a freshman in 2011.

While watching today’s new high school graduates move mountains of belongings into Cal U.’s dorms, I also wondered how their displays of acquired stuff would have made a kid like me feel in 1974 on my first day at college, having come from a low-income family. I mean it took two vehicles in some cases Thursday to bring one new kid to the campus.

I went to Edinboro State College with barely enough beloingings to put inside a cheap, black Masonite footlocker my parents purchased the previous year at Hill’s Department Store as my Christmas present. I packed it the following August with my junk, including a coat that wasn’t warm enough for the upcoming winter, and went to Edinboro wearing shoes with holes in their soles and just enough money to pay for my first semester’s books.

That was all we could afford with mom and dad each earning a little more than minimum wage two years after he lost his skilled labor job at a steel mill, when it forever shuttered its gates.

Fortunately, though, their incomes qualified me for state and federal college grants that covered the entire cost of tuition and room-and-board my first term and a good portion of those costs for the next three years after transferring to Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Those grants since have disappeared. On top of that, my less-than-stellar high school academic performance and college entrance exam score wouldn’t have been good enough now for acceptance into some of Pennsylvania’s state universities, which claim to have raised those bars on prospective applicants.

These things also made this newspaper journalist wonder if Pennsylvania and its public universities have squeezed out the poor.


Anonymous said...

I think you're right, Scott. Instead of government loans, poor students are given the chance to go to school via the military. In other words, if they don't get too maimed or killed, after serving for 6 years in the desert, they can go to school on the G.I. Bill. I think it's the saddest thing. We have made education such a luxury--I mean, I'm almost 50 and still paying on my school loan to Cal. And I know I'm one of the fortunate ones--at least I was given a loan!

Your cuz...Neese

Scott Beveridge said...

You are so right Neese. How could I have forgotten the veterans. Those whom I have met at Cal are pretty amazing.