General Studies students aren't featured in a Columbia College-centric student life—even at Spectator, which I guess makes me the token GS blogger. GS students bring a lot to the CU table: a ton of life experience and backstories full of achievement and judiciousness which are manifested through the friction of real world experience and/or growing older. However, after several attempts to tap some of these stories for Spec, I was halted by one overarching narrative for GS students---a substantial gap between financial aid and tuition.
GS’s Dean Peter J. Awn is famous for his absolutely wonderful open letters. In his most recent one, Dean Awn wrote that GS will no longer award the Bachelor of Science degree. The decision marks GS’s fully and completely integrated liberal arts program in an effort to academically conform to CC.
CC and GS retain a reasonable separation of administration, admissions, and financial aid offices.The last remnant of GS’s days as a lesser CC is the separation of endowment. Much as I admire Dean Awn for throwing GSers a bone of academic validation, how about a open letter celebrating a merger of CC, SEAS, and GS’s endowments? No? Well, how about an explanation as to why this disparity still exists? To be fair, Dean Awn has addressed this over and over again. However, I would bet that until extra aid is raised/found/allocated or institutional loans are made available to GS students, this line of questioning is going to continue as long as it still prevents GSers from getting a degree.
Last spring the Blue and White's Anna Bahr wrote a great piece on this disparity. A commenter on Bahr’s piece wrote, “Don't you GSers get it! Columbia uses GS just as a way to make money." I’m not convinced that GS is simply a money-maker for the university.
A substantial financial aid shortfall is a concern for many---if not the majority*---of GS students, including myself. I don’t feel guilty nor vulnerable---just left out. Moreover, I feel a sense of optionless urgency to find funding for next semester. My GS story is one of adversity, loss of self and redemption, but the most important part of that story is that it isn’t over, hopefully. This is my first semester here at Columbia, and unless $20,000 falls out of the sky, it will most likely be my last. Prior to moving to NYC in August, I was on welfare (TANF, SNAP), lived in a project building, and received welfare benefits. If possible, I would sign up for as many loans as it took, and as long as it meant, to finish my degree. However, with my history and no cosigner, there isn’t a shot in hell I’d be approved for a private student loan. At least, not for the next decade or so…And I’m not the only person in this position.
We are the (not so) few, we are the stubborn, we are the students who understand what the value of a Columbia education is in today's job market. We are the CUSWNCWADHAC (aka CU Students With No (or bad) Credit Who Also Don’t Have a Cosigner). We believe just because we are CUSWNCWADHAC, doesn’t mean we should be barred from an Ivy League education.
This piece isn’t a potshot at those “most trust- funded among us,” nor anyone who receives a full ride, no matter who your benefactor is. In life, some get the carrot and others, well…they get beaten and tricked with the stick. Despite feeling somewhat tricked, I would still gleefully take a beating and you can keep the carrot. All I’m interested in are a cap, gown, and that piece of paper that says THE TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK at the top.