By: Mohammed Shariff
On Tuesday Oct. 6, 2009 I interviewed Courtney Walters (Name Changed on her request) who is from Newport Beach. Courtney is a junior at UCI and hopefully will graduate on time in 2011. She’s majoring in Business Economics and minoring in accounting. Ms. Walters and I meet at The District in Irvine where I interviewed her for a little over a half an hour. It was our first meeting, we both sipped on Peet’s Coffee on a breezy day while discussing her day, the effects of the budget crisis, how her life has been affected, and what’s she’s doing to keep up with it all.
Q: When did the Budget crisis start to affect your life?
A: ( she paused for about 8 sec) Probably over the summer, I noticed I was unable to be self supporting and almost not able to pay for the summer semester. Luckily I’ve been able to take out student loans. Unfortunately I have to pay for college myself, I’ll most likely be in debt for a while. In addition to that the foreseeable increase in tuition by 30% makes me worry (sad emotional tone) Right now I have already taken out a lot of money for student loans and the thought of even potentially having to take out more to cover the tuition; Which I was told when I took this certain amount of loans would be okay as long as I paid off those. Now I might have to take out other loans.
Q: How many loans do you have currently?
A: Right now I’ve taken about $100,000 worth of loans and with interest rates increasing its just getting out of hand. At the same time I trust that everything happens for a reason and eventually I’ll be able to pay it off. She has about 50-70 thousand in loans from UCI since her initial start at UCI. She also took out about 30 thousand more from her bank.
Q: How do you feel about the UC budget situation and about Yudof?
A: I feel passionately about Yudof I feel he is taking advantage of the UC system and not asking us student’s opinion’s and I feel he is acting and not compromising. I am fairly aware of the UC budget cuts that is why I do worry about the future. worry the loans I’ve taken thus far will not cover (sigh) the foreseeable increase in the tuition prices up to 10,000 dollars as opposed to what it is now. I am well informed and I do disagree with what Yudof it doing.
Q: Are You currently working?
A: Yes, I have two full time jobs. It is the only way I can afford to go to school and pay off loans.
Q: What do you do and where?
A: I’m a waitress right now at Yard house and in addition I work for an accounting firm, I jumped in and asked; Are you interning at the accounting place, she then replied with “yes”. I’m fortunate enough to have landed a great internship that pay’s, I can’t afford to not have a paying internship right now.
Q: How many hours are you working?
A: I work a total of 40-45 hours a week. Yard house takes up most of my work time. I spend 25-30 hours working here in a week and sometimes more due to unexpected shifts and other restaurant related delays. At the accounting firm I work about 15 hours a week. I wish I could work there more often.
Q: How much time out of the day do you allocate for school, work, and yourself?
A: Let’s see, school and work, I guess a day is 24 hours consumes about ohhh 14-16 hours! I’m in school then homework when I can, go to work, but typically I wake up early in the moorings so I can do homework before class. Nights are stressful with the waitress-ing I get off late if there’s customers that want to stay longer. The Yard house stays open quit late.
Q: How are classes going?
A: there going well, I’ve noticed that its harder to focus in my classes and on my studies when I’m working two full-time jobs. I still feel fortunate enough that I’m able to go to school and given the opportunity, but at the same time it can be discouraging because there are plenty of students when I go to my classes that are only taking classes and don’t have to work. I get resentful, because why do I have to go through all of this why do I have to work two jobs. its life, but my classes are going okay.
Q: Has your school been declining due to the long work hours and on top of that being a full time student?
A: My grades have slipped a little, but I work really hard to maintain them. I can’t afford both financially and mentally to fail a class!
Q: What do you do to digress, have fun get away from it all?
A: That’s a good question(raised eyebrow and took a deep breath) I relax watch TV. I was involved in clubs and sports at UCI, but now I go to the gym. The only free time I get I try to spend it mostly at the gym. or watching movies or television
Q: What clubs were you involved in?
A: I was on the tennis club team it was fun only recreational though, and also last year well actually the last two years I was apart of the sailing club, but because of budget cuts the sailing team was cut. Not only can’t I afford (a.) join the group, but (b.) it’s unavailable.
Unfortunately I can no longer afford the (a.) the time commitment (b.) the money commitment that comes along with being apart of a club.
( I paused and had a little conversation with her. I mentioned that it must be hard dealing with all these situations, She went on about how she felt, so I asked her)
Q: How are you dealing with the change?
A: It is a lot of change! I take it one day at a time, fortunately I have my health today and a good head on my shoulders. My family loves me. When I focus on the things I do have as opposed to the things that I don’t which would be finances to finance school , clubs, free time. I focus more on the valuable friendships that I have, great co-workers, and the opportunity to learn. Also the great professors that I get to interact with. It makes my struggle okay makes my life okay. Definitely it could be better but at this point there isn’t much I can do about it.
Q: Most students dealing with your problems seek out counseling, are you seeing any counslers?
A: Yes, I’m able to meet with on campus counselors and therapists. Obviously I can’t afford to see outside therapy if I could I would, but at the same time my time is very, very constricted an the amount of time I do have is nice to let off some steam, stress to a therapist and get advice. They have helped me a lot, and I would encourage other students to use there services, also it’s free!
Q: Before entering UCI and having known that there would be increases in tuition in the future, would you still have attended?
A: I definitely would have reconsidered. I would have stayed close to home, well I guess I’m as close to home as you can get, but I probably would have stuck with getting an AA and gone to an community college. I can’t even imagine that there will be an increase in tuition. I don’t know what it could possibly do I mean worse case scenario I could takeout another loan, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to takeout more. my credit is good however..(She digressed a lot here, I politely had to change the subject of our conversation).
Q: What would happen if you didn’t have the money to put yourself through school?
A: I would have to work as a waitress for the rest of my life, however I have a decent internship that’s paid at the accounting firm. If I want to work there as a full time employee they want me to have a bachelors degree. So I hope I can continue on.
Q: How long do you see the financial crisis burdening your life?
A: well the loans I have amassed I know will take time to pay off, but I’m hopeful( I interrupted her, how much time do you think?) probably into my thirties or possibly my early forties.
Q: Would you consider working for a year or two, saving money paying of some loans, and then re-enter UCI?
A: Absolutely, I would definitely even want to see if the tuition prices were to fall. I have ( she started talking about scholarships) been applying for different kinds of scholarships hopefully they will cover some of it (asked which scholarships she applied for but she wouldn’t disclose them, she said that she didn’t want to ruin her chances)
Q: Is your Family helping you out financially?
A: Emotionally yes, financially no. unfortunately I am the eldest of four and they’re both hard working. My dad has been demoted , and my mom works at a low income job. They have three at home to take care of. They have to pay for food and other important stuff for my two sisters and little brother. Luckily I live on my own and I can take care of myself. Sometimes people assume that just because I’m from Newport beach that my life must be great, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. (she laughed, she thought it was the sun isn’t sunnier, then realized that it was the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. When she laughed I noticed that she is really strong individual and will be okay)
Q: What do your parents do for a living, did they always encourage college?
A: My dad works for an electronics company he is a computer engineer. My mom works at a nursing home part time. My parents always encouraged college, they want all their children to succeed and go on to great careers. They had planned to take care of college, but due to financially constraints within the family I had to take over my dream.
Q: What are your goals and dreams?
A: My dreams I would say isn’t every persons dreams, but its to have a family and to give them the opportunity to get educated. My goal right now is to occupy a job in the business field. I have majored in business economics for that reason and minored in accounting. Hopefully my expertise at an accounting firm will give me an upper hand when it comes to next year with finding and locking down a job (hopefully its at the accounting firm I intern at she mentioned). my goals are I guess to be able to financially support my self and one day a family of my own.
Q: Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel?
A: YES, That keeps me going every day!