I sometimes wonder what stage of life I will be in when I finish paying off my student loans. It may be five years from now, when I am settling into my first job. I’ll be driving a newer, more efficient car and buying flowers for my girlfriend. It may be ten years from now, when I have moved into a bigger house with my fiance in a different part of the country. It may be twenty years from now, when I am driving my son to his first day of high school. It may be thirty years from now, when I take my wife to Europe for our twentieth wedding anniversary.
But I tend to think my payments will end around the time I begin collecting social security. Coming from a blue-collar family, I was raised to take care of my own finances. “If you transfer to Quinnipiac, we won’t be able to help you pay,” my father told me upon leaving Florida State University after my freshman year. My parents are loving, understanding, generous, and supportive, but they warned me about the expense of a private university.
When I accept my diploma in just over one month, there will be a huge smile on my face and not a single regret in my mind, for attending Quinnipiac University has been the best experience of my life. Yet I worry that the memories will begin to fade long before my Chase Manhattan payments have ended. But that is not what bothers me. It isn’t the lack of commuter parking that bothers me either. Nor is it paying $5.75 for a salad. It isn’t even the six minute “Here Comes the Sun” clock tower remix that bothers me. I made the decision to come to this school and thus, assumed the responsibility of paying for my education.
What does bother me, however, is a conversation I recently had with a student athlete.
“I have about $2000 dollars left at the end of the month,” she admitted.
“You mean for spending money?” I asked, slightly confused.
“Yea. And the school pays for my gas, food, and housing.”
“Do they also pay your whole tuition?”
“Hell yea. I couldn’t afford this school. It’s like $35,000 a year,” she said.
I had to laugh.
“Do you think that’s fair?” I asked her.
“Well it’s fair for me. But I guess if I didn’t play sports I would be mad.”
Suddenly the priorities of this university came screaming into focus. Sports come before academics. Simple as that. Now, you may be thinking: “But George, this is the case at all colleges in the United States.” Well to that I say: “Shut up. This is my editorial.” I don’t go to any other colleges in the United States. I go to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, so let’s stick to what we know. And because I will be paying off loans until I need the assistance of a cane to walk, I expect this college to give me what I am paying for: a damn good education. I don’t expect them to rub my hardships in my face. I am well aware that I can’t afford this school. I certainly don’t need athletes being paid $2000 a month to prove that to me.
It is clear that the concept of higher education has strayed from its original purpose of providing students with a higher education to that of satisfying the appetites of those who benefit monetarily (yes, college is another word for 4-year business). But let’s be realistic. What brings in the money to Quinnipiac? Sports. What gets the school’s name out to the public? Sports. What helps us find jobs, raise a family, and understand the morals, values, and complexities of life? Sports. Oh, wait. That can’t be right.
Now I can make a foul shot here and there, I can shoot a puck with reasonable accuracy, and I can throw a decent curveball. But frankly, I was not recruited by Quinnipiac to do any of those things. I cannot compete on the NCAA level. Not many can. I simply came here to work hard, learn some stuff, and get a degree along the way. I just hope that my academic grants and federal loans come through each semester.
In recent months, Quinnipiac has begun to force-feed the students with all that is Bobcat. And to help us transition into this new era of uber pride, Quinnipiac has transformed the old Rathskeller into the new and improved Bobcat Den. You can taste the school spirit! Our mascot is a furry, lazy-eyed cat who makes appearances on national television. And Dorm Road is now Bobcat Alley. There are even bobcat footprints painted on the speed bumps. I have no witty comment for this. They are just plain silly.
But what really ticks me off is the phone call I recently received from a QU alumnus who asked me how much money I would like to donate to the Senior Challenge.
“Where does the money go?” I asked politely.
“Well it goes to support the construction of the new sports complex,” she said happily. “In the past, senior classes have raised more that $50,000.
“Put me down for ten bucks,” I said.
When I do receive that bill from the Alumni Association, and oh, I assure you, I will receive that bill, I plan on filing it away in a very safe place. The day I make my last student loan payment, I will write them a check for ten dollars. And then I will call up my two-year-old grandson and advise him to grab a basketball, go outside, and practice shooting some foul shots.