Sacrifice Brings Forth The Blessings . . .

Walking around the campus of the Church’s flagship university today, I noted various states of clothing. No, this is not about skirt length (or pants now, apparently). I just noticed some shoes were *very* used, some other articles of clothing were clearly from a past age. Not a lot, but some. This got me to thinking about my own university experience. In grad school, I rarely had lunch because we could not afford it. And I frequently stayed at the campus until late in the evening studying (3am was not unusual). So I ended up with a piece of toast in the morning and some casserole in the late evening and sometimes if I was lucky enough to get a quarter or two, some sort of junk food from a vending machine during the day. Those Hostess Apple Pies were mighty good.

Things got better as I approached dissertation territory because I had an RA/TA/Fellowship job plus a part time job as a janitor (building engineer?).

Then I got to thinking about a colleague who was homeless during most of his undergraduate years because of a disagreement with family. He actually lived in the woods nearby his campus (neither of us ever studied at a Church school). And the winters were harsh in Logan (for him–I was not there). He had a hammock to sleep in, and acquired various bits along the way like blankets and a tarp to keep off the snow, etc. I don’t recall him saying that he was bothered by anyone, but he may have been. Clothes came from goodwill type things and he ate leftovers from the school cafeteria tables on occasion. (By the way, he is at this time a stellar scholar and truly able to make his own way in all senses of the word.)

So, I’m very curious. How did your education go in terms of economic sacrifice. Was it as bad as my friend and colleague, somewhere in between, or were you supported in style?


  1. Worked full time while studying full time, though the folks helped with tuition. Once in grad school I got a fellowship, but worked as a consultant about 30 hours a week on the side. I’m still tired.

  2. I was supported in style. And so I am to this day.

  3. Number 10 Can says:

    I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for the financial help I got during college and grad school. I was a first-generation college student whose parents didn’t have a prayer of paying tuition. I didn’t go to BYU, choosing a cheaper state school in a community with a slightly lower cost of living instead (a financially-motivated decision for which I will be forever grateful). Between academic scholarships, work study jobs, and RA/TA jobs, I made it through college and grad school without any debt and without having to work full time, a fact that continually astounds me. My parents helped me out in other ways, such as insurance. I worst privations I endured were wearing old clothes and eating cheap food. I ate so much Pasta-Roni and dehydrated potato pearls in those years that I can’t stand the sight of them now, but I always had a roof over my head. I recognize that my situation was very unique, and someday I hope to be able to give back to the scholarship funds that made my education possible so I can pass that gift on to others. I really can’t think about it without tearing up.

  4. 22 credit semesters while working 40 hours graveyard shift at a group home for developmentally disabled adults. But, I had it easy. One of my brothers lived in his car for his senior year, using the gym for showers and restrooms.

  5. My college career is a study in how to be repeatedly derailed. I lived with my parents, until they moved out of state to pursue a dream that 18 year old me did not share. I drifted into homelessness (to be fair, I could have asked extended family for help but chose not to) and lived out of my car or on the couches of friends while working a night job and trying to keep up in school. My glorious $10 an hour job closed the night shift in the middle of the semester, so I had to quit my day classes (didn’t realize what a bad hit that would be on my transcript). Finally got stable enough to go back, got married rather unexpectedly, then after finishing my AA threw myself under the bus and worked to pay my husband’s way through college (there just wasn’t ever enough $ for rent and tuition and books for both of us). In my 30’s I started taking a class a semester at community college again, and am now enrolled in BYUI’s online program because it’s affordable and I still have young kids at home. My husband is bankrolling me – about time he paid me back!

  6. My father was often unemployed growing up and my family of 9 picked up a few paper routes. I had my own route at age 8 and my mom told me that at $35/mo I could now afford to pay for all my own school clothes and personal spending. I transitioned into fast food work and wally world . . . and transferred up to the Rexburg store to start school at Ricks. Never saw a penny for tuition, food, housing, books, etc. from my parents. I remember the most frustrating part is that the financial aid formulas calculated that I’d receive $7000ish in support from my parents based on their income. I worked 30 hrs a week to barely make ends meet and my first semester I rear ended some jerks car and paid to have his bumper replaced. The rest of the semester I ate ramen 2x per day and was nearly starving when I went home for Christmas. My parents gave me a case of mac and cheese as a gift because, haha, starving student. I’m not sure they ever knew how true it really was. I ate so much ramen over those two years that 15 years later I can’t eat it. I’m amazed how common stories like mine are. Why didn’t I go to the bishop? I don’t know.

  7. RJ, you get what you deserve, apparently. (grin)

  8. Went to an excellent private school on lots of need based aid, etc. Was very close to the wire lots of times but all my Asian roommates showed me how to do stir fry, and ate rice and stir fry veggies a LOT for very cheap. Worked at least 20 hours per week, and left college with about $18k in loans, much better than many friends. I worked with a girl who bought a lot of potatoes and had one every day for lunch. Cheap, filling, cooks easily on microwave, etc. A couple times I had to borrow money from a friend to get my finances worked outand register for the next semester, but it always worked out. Also ate lots of ramen.

  9. Kristine A, those financial forms were murder. My parents gave us an old car to get around, which broke down and absorbed cash incessantly. No one in my family ever went to college and they were really clueless about what was involved, or why anyone would do it.

  10. the only hardship i had in college was in grad school with a certain analysis professor who delighted in watching us write our proofs on the board and waiting until we were one sentence away from finishing before saying “dude, you’re not only in the wrong neighborhood, you’re in the wrong universe…we have gravity here.” :)

    more on point, my parents made me a deal where they paid my housing but i paid tuition. that’s why byu and not berkeley; byu gave me a scholarship and cal didnt. the scholarship was for 4 semesters; through extentions and high credit hour semesters, i was able to get to about 90 credits before i had to pay myself. all my apartments were standard byu 6 people in 2 rooms; while on scholarship, i worked in the physics demo lab for spending money; later i worked for jackie in the math lab and that was enough to pay tuition. in grad school, i got a really nice (for back then) stipend as a math 110 instructor and in spring/summer taught a 112 class or 2 for extra money. (while telling my students “you’re not only in the wrong neighborhood, you’re in the wrong universe…we have gravity here.”)

  11. A Happy Hubby says:

    I worked full time and carried a full load. I was not totally broke, but didn’t have much. Parents didn’t have any money (in fact they borrowed from me sometimes). I do remember the period and just feel my energy level drop remembering the fatigue. Once I got my undergraduate, got a “real” job, and started graduate school after a nice 2 week break. It was actually a bit better. But then the callings started ramping up, but I married and my wife had finished school and was just entering the work force. We were doing OK, but I remember the pressure on time being more than the money pressure. It took years for me to stop waking up in a cold sweat thinking that I had to go back to school and “finish” something.

  12. I had it easy. I had high-paying summer and campus jobs and a scholarship for tuition. I graduated with $2500 in the bank and a not-entirely shabby car. However, one of the guys I worked with had gone without food off and on, and appreciate his job more than I did. My roommate’s brother slept on my floor one semester. And, I hometaught a girl who wasn’t really making it and thought she might have to go home. I felt magnanimous loaning her $100 that she was supposed to pay back at the end of the semester, but when she didn’t pay before going home for the summer, I wrote her a nasty letter. She sent me the money explaining why she hadn’t earlier, and she had really good reasons. I should have sent her the money back. But, I didn’t. I can’t believe I squeezed a really nice poor person for $100. It might actually be the most shameful thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve never gotten over it.

  13. I was lucky. So very very lucky. I went to a state school on scholarship which covered tuition, fees, and also gave me cash each quarter toward the cost of books. I lived at home in my parents’ basement. I had a bus pass and access to a car. I didn’t work because I didn’t have to. I gave piano lessons to 3 or 4 students for some pocket change.

    I was a university exchange student for a year in the Netherlands (University of Tilburg), for which I was able to use my scholarship plus a bit in student loans that I took out. When I got back, my scholarship had expired, and the hard slap of my fellow students’ reality hit me. I had to get a job to fund the rest of my education. I still lived at home, but now I had to pay for everything else. I worked graveyards doing the books for a downtown hotel. It was a good job. I didn’t get dirty or smell like deep fried food when I went home.

    When I got married, my wife was already working full time as an elementary school teacher. It wasn’t a great salary (because public education), but *we* thought it was great because we had enough for our needs and a little extra to go out to eat once in a while or to go see a movie.

    When I went to graduate school, we moved to another state. My wife didn’t get accredited to teach there (the requirements were onerous), but she did get a full time job doing clerical/secretarial work. I got financial aid from my department and worked as a TA/RA the whole time. I even got to teach my own courses for a couple of summers for extra cash. It got a bit tight when our first child was born, since my wife quit her job to be home with him. That’s when we started taking out student loans in earnest. But all in all, it wasn’t bad. We always had enough for our needs. We often had extra. In fact, one Sunday the second councilor in the bishopric challenged ward members to double their fast offerings, and so we did. We hardly felt it. Even my trip to a tenure-track position was pretty smooth. And now here I am, ensconced at a university an hour away from my parents, doing exactly what I dreamed I would be doing as a grownup when I was still living in their basement. And my student loans are paid off.

    Maybe I don’t have any business posting this comment in this thread; I don’t feel like I sacrificed much (if anything) for my schooling. Does that mean that I didn’t appreciate my educational opportunities? Not at all. As I watched friend after friend go to part-time studies and eventually drop out of school because of financial pressure, I thanked God that I was able to pursue my educational goals in relative security. I’m probably the luckiest academic in the Church.

  14. For undergrad: school full time, work nearly full time, and debate (on scholarship) full time. Thankfully, working at a pizza joint solved most of my food issues ;)

    For law school: bankrolled by my wife, to whom I owe a debt that dwarfs my law school loans (which were pretty damn big).

  15. I had gratefully forgotten the tough parts until reading these comments and being reminded. My journey has not been nearly as challenging as your colleague, but I learned how to scrimp. I lived at home and had a full tuition scholarship for 2 years while working a part-time graveyard shift, Then transferred to a state university where savings from the graveyard shift paid for rent and food. Often pooled resources with fellow students from another apartment to make a fairly balanced meal. “We have a main dish. Bring your vegetables, chairs, and plates and and we’ll eat together.” I married before graduation and remember the years of $30 food budget for a month. I always had a warm, safe place to live, but rarely had a car. Subsequently completed BS and MS and have survived well since.

    I wondered if your post was going to relate to previous posts about dressing to meet the honor codes of church schools. Makes me wonder what challenges some of these students face as we insist on their meeting middle-class expectations.

  16. Dave, those math dudes are ridiculous.

  17. I’m in the middle of finally going after *my* educational goals. Put my first husband through a total of 14 years of school, divorced right after he was supposed to be done. (Long story, not for here.) I did get my AS-T, (which means that as long as I finished at a public university within the Western Stare Exchange, all my credits would be accepted) with about $11,000 in loans because I finished it the year I had 3 kids under 3. (It was the only thing that kept me sane, nursing infant twins, because I got to go talk to adults 3 times a week.)

    When my husband lost the job he had had for 18 years, (he had only had one other job, in the Navy) we decided that since his expertise was obsolete, that it was our chance to both go to school. Alaska gives disabled veterans and their families in state tuition, and that makes our tuition less than BYU. We finally are in student housing, which means that his VA stipend pays for our rent. I have two smaller scholarships, and Vocals Rehab pays his tuition. My medical issues force us to take out more loans than we would like, but after next summer my husband will be able to use the money from his summer engineering internship to replace the loans he is taking out this year.

    Our apartment is the only wheelchair accessible one on campus. It is in the dorm reserved for seniors, foreign exchange students and graduate students. We have been inviting students to have dinner with us at least twice a week, and it has been a blessing in so many ways. We have gifts of moose, caribou and duck in our freezer, and rhubarb shows up in bags in front of our door regularly. (We don’t know who brings them.) We have promises from many of the Alaska Native students in my classes, of seal, whale and bear meat, when they have a portion sent to them. My husband does most of the cooking, and is trying not to show how much fun he is having trying new things.

    Students who borrow our kitchen to cook (since it is the only full kitchen in the dorm) know I have an onion allergy, and have been very respectful about keeping the kitchen onion free. The students often make a double batch of whatever they have prepared, to share with us, all onion free. We could not afford half the food we eat, and are grateful for the freshly prepared foods, with flavors from all over the world.

    Being disabled makes it hard for me to work. I write for the newspaper, and I apply for every scholarship I can. My husband delivers the campus newspaper weekly, and it pays well for a student job, and needs to be done on a day he has no classes.

    It is hard to be thousands of miles away from my kids, but part of the reason we chose Alaska, is that anyone whose parents or grandparents are alumni, is eligible for in-state tuition and in-state scholarships. Given the cost of going to college today, being an alumni may be their best chance to not starve while being college students.

  18. Julia, what a story. Thanks for sharing it.

  19. I should say that after our first snow yesterday, the biggest issue with clothing is that none of the wool sweaters are in at the Bookstore, and the school had to add more shuttle times going to stores that carry cold weather clothing. Keeping warm in the winter, and cool in the summer, is the main thing. As I mentioned in another comment thread, full nudity *that bothers other people or isn’t part of a specific event* are the only issues that are addressed by the police. I would be shocked if the Chancellor noticed student clothing, beyond asking what kind of skins/hide an article of clothing (especially gloves) something is made from.

  20. i actually learned a hell of a lot from you. thank you very much.

  21. Hook 'em Horns says:

    I had a rich uncle pay for mine….Uncle Sam. GI Bill/Tuition Assistance while on active duty. Then worked full time through graduate school on various scholarships/grants/fellowships. Earned my PhD without a dime in student debt.

  22. Married at 19, first baby at 20, earmed practical nursing certificate while pregnant with my third. Divorced after that child was born, went on welfare (church and state), carried a mortgage, maintained a home and junker Subaru wagon, worked part-part time (thus, the welfare, and precious time with my littles), school full time for nursing degree, taught primary, taught young women’s… I’d take single life living on friends’ sofas or in cars any day. I claim the ultimate martyrdom of welfare mom who made good.

    Ramen seems to be the common denominator here. And look at us now!

    You go, Juliathepoet!

  23. Was at BYU for my undergrad. Financed through the Daddy “scholarship” with the understanding that I was to kept my grades up and there would also be no additional financial help for education after graduating with a BS. I did take Math 312 from VWS, received a D and then retook it from another professor the next semester and got a B thus avoiding the issues with potentially loosing the “scholarship.” My housing expenses were also covered via the same means and I received additional money monthly for food other needs. I did work summers as a Lifeguard to have additional spending money while at school. I never really used that money and it ended up going as a downpayment on my 1st house. Grad school expenses were covered by Uncle Sam through my employment as part of the civil service. It was a bunch of extra work during the evenings while I still was employed with my day job. So no major economic sacrifice from me to obtain my education. However, as both myself and my wife were supported by our parents I figure we should do the same for our children. We are saving right now but I do worry about the cost once my kids are of age. They are currently 8, 5 and 1 years old.

  24. Thanks, Dave. Sorry about the D Alex.

  25. I did undergraduate at BYU. My parents paid the cheap (1980’s rates) tuition, which was contingent on maintaining passing grades. My living expenses came from an on-campus job (all 5 years) as a janitor in various buildings. I still joke that one of the few useful things I learned there was how to mop a gym floor.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    My dad’s deal with each of us kids was that he would pay us the equivalent of four years’ tuition at BYU (no matter where we went; he pushed the Y pretty hard) in a lump sum (so no escalators) when we went to college, and that was it. We were responsible for everything else. We had ample, years’ long notice of this, so it struck me as a fair compromise. Of course, as an idiot freshman I spent the whole wad my first year. I also partied so hard my second semester that I lost my half-tuition scholarship.

    When I came off my mission, I worked like a dog for about three months and then headed back to the Y for winter semester. I shared a basement room in a house on the tree streets; there was no kitchen, but just a minifridge and a hot plate in the bathroom. I lived on cereal, hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly.

    I worked, lived in cheap places, ate cheap food, but pretty much everyone I knew was in the same boat, so I didn’t feel deprived in the moment. Eventually I graduated from law school with a little under $20,000 in student debt; try doing that today!

  27. My step-father not only refused to help me pay for college, he refused to sign the FAFSA, so I couldn’t even apply for aid. And he told me that I could no longer live in his house after I turned 18 (I was a precocious git and skipped a grade in elementary school, so I was barely 17 when I graduated high school).

    Without a lot of good options, and not a clue about how to navigate the bureaucracy of college and financial aid on my own, I joined the US Navy, where I met the love of my life (HA). I finally went back to school in my 30s and was about half way to a Bachelor’s degree when my husband abandoned me with 6 children. I finished the rest of my degree living on grants, student loans, child support (such as it was) and church assistance. I had an academic scholarship that paid my tuition.

    Unless something really unexpected happens, I’ll be paying off the student loans into my 60s. But at least I can support myself in moderate comfort now, unlike many women who’ve been through the kind of struggle I have.

  28. 20 credit quarters to finish in three years, as a single mom with three kids under 10. But thanks to the bloggernacle, my last year was filled with grace and the ability to keep housing and pay tuition. It’s not hyperbole to say I will be forever grateful.

  29. Kev, you dissipating fool, you! But I’m quite sure I would have done the same (not the law school gig).

    Fiona, that is tough stuff. Here’s hoping for the unexpected good.

  30. Huge congrats, Tracy.

  31. Wow–this has helped me put my experience in perspective (thanks, all). I thought it was just me… and, turns out, I’ve got nothin’.

    My campus was basically structured around the idea that everyone came from money and wouldn’t be working more than about 5 hours/week. I worked 25+ (the maximum I could manage… I know one other person from there who managed 20). My parents didn’t pay for tuition or housing, did help with little things, but rounded-up the amount of money they’d given me when asking me to pay them back because they needed it.

    I feel like the effort I put into my education brought me more blessings than abstaining from shorts and capris woul… oh, never mind.

  32. I didn’t realize it then but I had it so so easy. My parents were willing to pay for as much as tuition, books and room and board at our state university, which is where I chose to go. I worked about 20hrs a week to cover living expenses.

  33. I had it pretty good. After reading the comments above I feel guilty about it. Undergrad I lived at home. Had a scholarship before my mission, but grades lost that. Attended a foreign university and ate a lot of rice and other cheap stuff. By the time I got my undergrad degree I was engaged to a young lady working in the medical field. I had always imagined that married life in grad school would involve eating lots of beans out of cans, but felt guilt on a few occasions as I ate in the break room with other students and pulled out my leftover T-bone steak while others ate mac n cheese. My wife kept treating me as if we were dating, so I gained some weight that first year. Came out of grad school with only $7500 in debt, which I actually used to start my practice.

    I read the stories of those who really struggled yet got their education and I am deeply impressed. I realize I was spoiled. I used to contribute to the perpetual education fund until we started having relatives serve missions and we diverted the funds there. But one day we’ll revert again to helping pay for others’ education (except I heard the church doesn’t really let us designate our donations like that anymore–at least not in a meaningful way).

  34. racerxisalive says:

    Growing up my dad made it clear that he wasn’t going to pay for college for any of us. It was made clear that we either needed to get a scholarship or learn to like student loans. I got a scholarship that covered tuition plus a small stipend that covered about half my books each year. My parents did give me the money back that I had saved up for my mission- they let me believe that they had used it for my mission until the week before school started. I blew that pretty quick my freshman year on housing and food and dates, since I didn’t work that first semester. But after that, on top of full time school I had either 1 or 2 part time jobs, or a full time plus a part time job during the summers. I got married during my sophomore year, and my wife worked as a pharmacy tech for the first year or so. Our son was born between my junior and senior years, at which point my wife went back to school and worked part time at the university working at the disability resource center making audio books and fixing OCR’d books so they could be converted into braille. During that time we did pick up a few student loans, but nothing that has been too much of a burden. Our parents did help out some money-wise when my engine blew and we paid way too much money to fix it.
    All in all, we never had to suffer through abject poverty, though we definitely weren’t living comfortably either. We had plenty of times where we had to scrounge up enough change to buy bread so that I could pack a sandwich in my backpack for lunch.

  35. Had it easy during undergrad. Four-year merit-based scholarship paid for tuition at BYU, and I was able to earn enough during the summer months to mostly pay for all other expenses (lived on cup o’noodles and homemade quesadillas). My parents’ philosophy was that they would pay for missions and weddings — college was on us (I was the last of 5 kids). My husband also had a four-year merit-based scholarship, so we both escaped undergrad with no debt. Against the recommendation of our in-laws, we decided to fund my husband’s med school training with student loans rather than the military. We were surprised that many of his peers had tuition paid for by parents. I worked full-time in the only job I could find for the first year of his schooling, and then somehow got pregnant (we’d been unsuccessful for several years). The employer wasn’t family-friendly, so after considering the costs of childcare with full-time work in a stressful job I didn’t particularly like (and much prayer), I decided to make the terrifying leap to become a SAHM. I requested financial assistance from my parents for the first time in my married life and was told that we needed to learn how to work this out as a married couple. My in-laws were busy supporting their other kids, so they weren’t available to help. I learned that we could get food through WIC and my baby’s insurance could be covered by CHP. We had too much in savings to qualify for Medicaid and food stamps. Luckily we lived in a ward with a lot of grad student families like ours (dental school, law school, and others), so there was a good support group of people in the same boat. We also had a lot of gov’t subsidized housing in the ward, so there was no shortage of service needs. It was sobering to realize that in spite of our hardships we were actually a lot better off than many of our fellow ward members. The RS sponsored weekly playgroups at the church that essentially served as a support group. The moms would occasionally splurge and do girls nights at the dollar movies (10pm showings when most of our husbands had finally gotten home). I still remember the gut-wrenching feeling of looking at a $11K medical bill during that stressful time. Luckily, the rules for student loans were less stringent then, so we were allowed to take out extra for that medical bill. We left medical school with $280K in student loans, what I affectionately call the mortgage on my husband’s brain. We made the mistake of buying a starter home in 2007 with the naive excitement of actually earning positive income in a different part of the country with a lower cost of living (LOL-ironically the same annual salary I’d been earning in my horrible job several years earlier). The market crashed, we needed to move for the next stage of training. We miraculously sold the house, though it took all our savings and a substantial cash advance on the credit card to pay the closing costs. Several more years of training and another interstate move later, we are still renting and hoping to be able to own a home. We figure it’ll take about 20 years to get the student loans paid off. My husband loves his job and our kids are living close to their grandparents for the first time in their lives.

  36. Wow. Reading all of these comments has made me reflect on how blessed I have been. I turned down a full tuition scholarship at BYU and instead went to a much more expensive university. While I did get scholarships/financial aid and work every semester and summers, my parents and grandparents helped to foot the enormous bill, so I graduated debt-free. While I definitely felt poor sometimes, that was really only in comparison to the wealth of some of my classmates – I actually had a pretty good lifestyle.

    While in grad school, I did take out loans, but a great summer internship and scholarships helped keep those low.

    In my family, the expectation is that the parents will pay for college and a mission. My parents and grandparents made early preparations to be able to do so, and I expect to be able to do the same for my own children, if I have any. I’m really grateful that they planned for and prioritized our education, because I’m not sure I could have made it through some of what was described in other comments,

    I will admit that I have always been confused by relatively well-off LDS families who don’t pay for much (if any) college. Among my non-LDS friends from a similar income bracket, almost all have had substantial financial assistance from their parents. Is this an anomaly, or does the relative affordability of church school drive this? (note: I think that the student contribute substantially, of course. But even with substantial contributions from a good job, tuition just isn’t going to be affordable at most universities. I feel like most of my friends’ parents who could afford it helped them out – except for the parents of some of my LDS friends).

  37. Reading this made me really appreciate my free education and the student benefits that government pays. You got to love the Scandinavian welfare states.

  38. All respect to the single mom students (and any single dad students who just haven’t commented). Adding kids to the mix complicates it exponentially.

  39. John Mansfield says:

    My graduate school twenty years ago was Johns Hopkins, which is in Baltimore, where it was easy to live cheaply. Being a research assistant, which simply meant being a PhD student the department wanted around, covered tuition and provided an $18,000/year stipend. I married in the summer after my first year, and my wife was also a Hopkins graduate student and was similarly provided for by her department. Since we wanted to have children if we could, we lived on my stipend and put hers in the bank. After children came, my stipend covered day-to-day living OK, put we drew on her savings often for things like car repair or travelling to see relatives. Three years after marrying, we left Baltimore with two children, a masters in molecular biology, a PhD in fluid dynamics, a rusty ’84 Toyota Tercel, and $10,000. I felt more financially at ease as a graduate student than I do now.

  40. My pre-mission undergrad had tuition paid by my parents, and rent, but I lived in a house with 7 other girls, so I think my rent was something like 175 or 200 a month, and I worked part time (it was 1991). Post mission got married, had 3 kids, got divorced, went back to school full time. My mom paid my tuition and I got several academic scholarships and grants, but also relied on the church for food, and fortunately my ex paid child support. Was able to graduate in 2.5 years (all my previous credits transferred) and went to law school. Lived on loans and child support for my first year and started working the summer after 1L. 2nd year, I worked 3 part time (all law related) jobs and went to school full time while raising 3 kids. This lasted until graduation. I don’t have panic attacks in my sleep any longer, but I doubt if I will ever fully rid myself of the fatigue. I graduated 5 years ago, and thanks to the public law forgiveness program, I only have 5 more years to pay on my student loans, but I will not have anything saved up to help pay for my children to go to school.

  41. Laurie, I’m sure we got the tip of the iceberg here, but you’re pretty amazing.

  42. Heading into freshman year at a state university, joined the church in September of 1979, and picked up a cafeteria job within a month, worked the rest of that semester and next. Decided to serve mission the following April of 1980, went home after spring semester, worked the summer full time and into the fall, saving enough for 1 1/2 years of mission, elders quorum from home ward carried me the last 6 months.. Got home Nov/1982, re-entered school Jan/1983, again working part time. Parents paid tuition that first semester back, but I got married Summer/1983 to wife who had just graduated BYU with $5K in loans. Still worked full time in summer and part time during school year, we got pregnant during my senior year (1986) of undergrad, in-laws helped watch child. Wife working part time, me starting full time law school and part time job, then next child born second year of law school, wife at home permanently, me still working, some student loans. Had about 18K in loans coming out of law school that took 10 years to pay. Never had to eat beans but we lived pretty cheap. My parents did help with tuition two or three semesters. No regrets, but I always I was “behind the curve” compared to other guys my age who graduated and were making decent money while I was still in law school. I’d like to think I’ve finally caught up, now. My kids haven’t had it nearly as bad, but they’ve worked summers, saved money, made good grades, and they’ve swung academic scholarships and paid tuition while I’ve paid room and board or they’ve lived at home and gone to state university. Two more to go!

  43. Megan, each family’s situation is different. I’m sure Mormons getting married and having kids at a younger age affects the family’s financial stability. They often have larger families than non-Mormons with comparable educational backgrounds. Oldest children in Mormon families are going to college just as the family is settling in financially — comparable non-Mormon families are often just beginning their families at the same time in their careers. Having your own education funded is a big boost to becoming financially secure, so it becomes a cyclical pattern. If you didn’t have your education funded, you’re stuck with debt that hampers your ability to save for your children’s education.

    My siblings and I always joked that our ancestors were cursed with financial humility as a consequence of joining the Mormon church. Going back well over 100 years, almost every generation has had major financial setbacks (my parents declared bankruptcy the year I was born and had to rebuild financially from scratch). College funds and financial inheritances/windfalls just don’t exist in our reality. My husband and I would like to be able to save something for our kids, but I’m keeping my expectations low.

  44. My husband and I grew up lower middle class and even though our folks had gone to college, they were no help financially or with advice. My husband and I had the same major at BYU (how we met) and got married halfway through so we finished together. Classes in the morning and part-time jobs in the afternoon for both of us. We worked full time in summers and managed to graduate with only about 15K in debt for both of us. Found the cheapest apartment we could find south of campus 20 years ago. Our neighbors called our landlord the “Slum Lord of Provo” the building was so bad but rent was only $350 a month. No carpet, just a large old filthy rug over concrete floors. The outgoing tenants told us we could keep the washrag they had tied around the shower head to keep it from leaking. We were poor, but not that poor! We ran to Walmart and got a new shower head! My husband got an old carpet remnant that we cut to fit our floor for free. He also replaced the peeling countertop and caulked and painted the walls. The oven was so old and tiny it only had 3 units on the stovetop. We cooked most of our meals in an electric pan we got as a wedding gift. It was in the basement of what was rumored to be the oldest free-standing apartment building in Provo (it’s still there and people still live in it). More rumor was that Benson lived there during his Academy days and our apartment was the old boiler room. The heating system was too expensive too run so we used a space heater our first winter, but when it broke the next year we never replaced it and just spent our evenings on campus studying in the warm buildings. A few years after graduation, we moved halfway across the country for my husband to get an MBA and he now works for a software company making bank! We will never live in Utah again. We were nothing but poor the whole time we lived there (even after school). Leaving was the best financial decision we ever made (of course, it helps that I’m not from there!). When we look back at where we came from and how we started out, it blows us away. Education, saving, trying to keep debt low, and living in our means have been key for us.

  45. My dad paid for my first semester tuition at BYU to get me going. After that I was on my own. Tuition at BYU in the mid-ninties was around $1100 a semester and I lived in a dive apartment until my senior year when I moved to the foreign language housing. I worked two jobs and did three at one point though I was pretty crap as a research assistant as a result. One of my best jobs was working graveyard shift doing construction when they were building the Micron plant in Lehi. It paid a couple bucks more an hour than anything else I had but it was cold as hell in the winter and tough to go straight from work to school. I slept a couple hours between classes on the bottom floor of the library where there was a decently comfortable chair. And I sold plasma as often as it was allowed which I think was about twice a week. I remember wanted to buy a Subway sandwich just about every day but not having the money to buy meals on campus so I would go hungry until I got home and could have a frozen burrito. Lots of kids were doing the same sorts of things–one close friend couch surfed and slept on floors, another ate one big meal a day. My poor sister actually passed out at Ricks because she was skipping so many meals. It was hard but not impossible and I was able to get through school with good enough grades that I could go to a fancy law school. Not getting married or having children probably helped.

  46. Mathew, you are clearly the bomb. I hope your sister recovered from the BYU-I concentration camp. Wow.

  47. Thanks WVS–I’m proud I was able to work my way through but like I said, it wasn’t uncommon. The kids from my neighborhood who went to college all did similar things and the kids I lived with in those crappy apartments all worked. Some of them might have had some help from home but I know a lot of them didn’t. One of the under appreciated things about BYU is that it is cheap enough for a working class kid to get through without crippling debt while providing a good platform for going on to graduate school. Of the give guys I roomed with when I returned from my mission, three went to graduate school. One is now a doctor (Johns Hopkins), one got an MBA (Wharton), one got a masters in GW though I’m not sure in what. We shouldn’t pretend that these are stories about rising from poverty–especially multi-generational poverty–which is a very different and much more impressive thing. Rather they are stories about how kids from larger, lower middle-class families are able to leverage the strong social and institutional supports commonly found in Mormonism into upward social mobility. I tend to think I was successful in college because (1) I was massively subsidized by the church, (2) BYU offered a lot of professor/student feedback, (3) I had thick relationships with lots of kids from affluent families due to having served together on missions or just having Mormonism in common. I saw that they were aspiring to professional and academic degrees and other than money we had a bunch of things in common and considered ourselves peers so there was no reason to think that I shouldn’t do the same.

    That said, I’m somewhat of a fanatic about helping my own children pay for school when the time comes. I believe that I am no worse off, and possibly better off, for having worked my way through but I no longer believe selling plasma makes you a better person. My wife’s parents paid for all of her schooling. At one point she floated the idea of a part-time job and her parents told her to think of school as her job. That’s obviously a luxury but it’s a luxury I would like my kids to have if I am able.

  48. Mathew, it’s an interesting conundrum: what power, if any, does the tougher road confer? And is it worth it? I’m of two minds. My guess is it’s difficult in the end to rightly judge one’s own attitudes and motives in terms of personal history.

  49. Paid for my education..all 3 degrees. Worked summers and during school year. Parents helped out with car (older Valiant cars which thankfully run forever) and clothes (good hand-me-downs). Lived in pretty decent places and ate good food (made stews, etc.) Lived on my own except for BYU…lived with another woman. Finally able to pay off last degree with inheritance money. Honor all those single moms/dads. Hard enough to do it on my own, never mind with children! Never would have guessed so many at BYU had it so hard. Feel sad about that.

%d bloggers like this: