Why are you broke?

Carolyn B. Fertig

Daily Kent Stater

There is a stereotype that “all college students are broke.” But why?

Situation 1: “All by myself” — No help paying for school

Name: Eric Felton

Year: Freshman

Major: Undecided

Paying For School:

This semester Eric Felton maxed out all of his student loans, then turned to federal loans to pay for the rest. Although his parents are not giving him any money for school or the necessities, they are helping him figure out the details of the loans and how to pay for things on time.

A Job:

Felton needs a job. He doesn’t want to go off campus for a job because he doesn’t have a car to get there.

“I am in desperate need of a job,” he said. “If I don’t get one soon, I don’t know what I will do.”


“I never sleep in class,” Felton said. “In high school, it was just a big naptime for me. I slept so much in class. I was always that kid that the teachers would come poke and say, ‘Are you OK?’ In college, I don’t do any of that.”

Felton said now college is a whole different feeling. When he is sitting in class, staring at the professor while he talks about material, he pays attention.

“Pretty much by the minute, you are paying to pretty much to be sitting there and listening to what the professor is saying,” he said. “It’s a much different feeling when you know, me, myself, alone are paying for those minutes.”

Social life:

The most important part about college is spending time with friends, not always spending money, Felton said.

“It doesn’t matter what we are doing,” he said, “like walking somewhere, watching a movie in someone’s dorm, or just talking. The most important ingredient of the social life is physically being with them.”

It’s the people that count, not always how much money you have or don’t have. People understand if someone can’t go out every night because of funding, he said.

Coupons, savings and sales:

Though Felton’s budget is tight, he admits that he lacks taking advantage of sales, coupons and other promotions.

“I don’t look for deals,” Felton said. “ I am stupid about it. I just go wherever I want, and when I want. I don’t pay attention to free stuff or sales.”

In high school, Felton used to save money regularly from the job he worked. Now, in the beginning weeks of college, he has had some problems.

“Ever since I came to college, I am much more broke than I have ever been,” he said. “It seems like every time I get my hand on some money, it is already spent.”

In a nutshell:

“I am not trying to get sympathy, or jerk tears,” Felton said, “But I just want people to understand, if I don’t have money and can’t go out, it’s because I am broke. — really broke. I hope that everyone appreciates their own situation, and just be proud of who they are, broke or not.” 

Situation 2: “Someone to watch over me” — Some help paying for school

Name: Susan Fletcher

Year: Post-undergraduate

Major: Vocal performance

Paying for School:

Susan Fletcher said she gets a little bit of help paying for college, but not a lot.

For her, it’s up to her to make choices about what she spends money on. One month she said she has the money for tuition, but then she can’t fix her car because she can’t afford the repairs.

“I will have very stressful situations that happen throughout my life, and I will stress out for three hours,” she said. “After that, I look at myself and say, ‘Life goes on’ and just stop.”

Fletcher said she feels guilty when she asks her parents for help paying for living expenses.

A Job:

Fletcher only works 10 hours a week at her job during school.

“It is so stressful to balance out school and work,” she said. “It’s just constant stress.”


“I try not to let other people’s situation influence my own,” she said. “I have so much on my plate right now. I can’t worry about other people. All I want to do is make it as a musician.”

School is very important because it’s not only about having the money to afford it, but it stems from her passion for what she is studying, Fletcher said.

“I want to be successful and get the best opportunity out of this education,” she said. “I want to take everything to the next level. I don’t want to sell myself short.”

Social Life:

Though money is tight, Fletcher still has time to go out and have a social life, but it comes at a price.

“(My) social life is a little too healthy,” she said. “I should be practicing more. I go out once or twice a week and usually spend too much money and feel guilty later.”

Coupons, savings and sales:

“I don’t go out of my way looking for deals,” Fletcher said. “I am in a situation where every little bit counts, so if I get a coupon, I will use it.”

In a nutshell:

“Every situation is different when it comes to paying for school,” Fletcher said. “I don’t think that a generalized stereotype that all college kids are broke shouldn’t define it all.”

Situation 3: “I want to hold your hand” — Complete help paying for school

Name: Valerie Dunlap

Year: Freshman

Major: Nursing

Paying for School:

Valerie Dunlap is set financially for her college education.

“I am an only child,” Valerie said, “so my parents set aside money to pay for my education. My parents’ education was paid for by their parents, so my parents paid for mine. I really don’t have to pay for anything.”

Valerie’s parents put money on her FlashCard for all the needs that involve school, but she commutes to school from Hartville. Her parents thought since they lived so close, she would have to pay for her housing if she chose to live in the residence halls.

A Job:

Valerie only works over the summer. When she came to school, her parents wanted her to focus on school and not a job.

When she does work, she has to pay for non-essential products, like clothes. But her parents still pay for food, her hygiene products and other necessities.

“My parents told me I don’t have to have a job,” she said. “ If I want a job, that’s fine, but they are not going to make me work to focus on my school.”


Though Valerie is not directly paying for her education, she understands the importance of her education no matter who is paying for it.

“I am not a slacker when it comes to school,” she said. “I do everything that is expected. Over the top, over-achiever, especially since (my parents) are paying for it. Even if you were paying for it, it’s your money, so you should get a good education. I am not going to go to school and waste my parents’ money.”

Social life:

If someone doesn’t have enough money to hang out, Valerie might pick up that tab to go out.

“All of my friends all live by me,” she said. “(They) are all in about the same situation as I. We grab a bite here or there. I go to the movies or whatever my friends want to do.”

Coupons, savings and sales:

Dunlap said that when she works in the summer, she is good at saving money for something that she wants.

“I am pretty good at saving money,” she said. “If I really want something, then I will buy it; otherwise, I will save the money for something else.”

Dunlap said she only buys name-brands products for certain items, but prefers to shop on a budget.

“I would buy name-brand for a purse, like a Juicy Couture purse, but after I save the money,” she said. “When it comes to clothes, I go to Marshalls or TJ Maxx. It’s still name-brand but you are getting it for cheaper.

“I am more of a sale shopper than anything else.”

In a nutshell:

Dunlap is planning on getting a job sometime this semester, but plans on working hard in school to keep her GPA up.

“This is the reason we are in school,” she said.

 Contact features correspondent Carolyn B. Fertig

at [email protected]