Going for broke

Michelle Poje

Making ends meet in college proves taxing for some students

Electronic media production and media management graduate student Gwen Jimmere works in the teleproductions studio. Jimmere also works a job in Cleveland and with Student Disability Services to pay for school.

Credit: Beth Rankin

“Hi, my name is Gwen. I’m really nice and really cool, but I’m also really broke so I need your help!”

For those who visit www.givetogwen.com, the above quote is the first thing they will likely notice on Gwen Jimmere’s personal Web site. Jimmere, a graduate student in media management, created the Web site with one goal in mind: to raise $35,000 for film school by way of visitor donations.

“People have said that I am begging for money, but I’m not,” Jimmere said, who will credit everything she receives as income to the IRS. “It’s like saying the people who do five-hour telethons for PBS are begging for money. They’re asking people to support their cause just like I’m asking people to support mine.”

Jimmere, who currently pays for school herself with the help of loans and three jobs, got the idea for the site when someone jokingly told her that “if everyone in Ohio gave you 10 cents, you’d be a millionaire.”

But for Jimmere, the idea was no joke. It instead spurred her to create www.givetogwen.com and ask for people to donate one dollar to help her pay her tuition. The Web site, which is just a week old, has since brought in donations from all over the country, as well as some positive and negative feedback.

“I’ll get e-mails from people telling me they like the idea and then I’ll get e-mails telling me, ‘you’re full of crap, this is a scam,'” Jimmere said. “I want to say, if this was a scam, I would be way too easy to find.”

While Jimmere’s idea is unique, the reality of students struggling to pay for college themselves is not. Mark Evans, director of Student Financial Aid, said 28,500 students in the 2005-2006 calendar year at Kent State are receiving some form of financial aid.

“Every student we get into the office has their own unique financial situation,” Evans said.

For many students, their situation concerns having to pay for college without help from parents or guardians. Jessica Lovett, sophomore fashion merchandising major, uses financial aid and occasional loans from her parents to pay for school.

“My parents just kind of sprung the whole not-helping-with-college thing on me my senior year of high school, so I didn’t really have time to save money,” Lovett said. “It’s very hard to concentrate on other things when all you can think about is how much money you need but don’t have.”

Jimmere said with the rising cost of tuition, asking for financial help is not something people should be ashamed of.

“I believe that most people in the world are good folks and if they need help, they should ask for it,” Jimmere wrote on her Web site. “Hey, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed, right?”

Jason Smeyres, sophomore computer animation major, said he didn’t expect any help from his parents upon entering college.

“My parents aren’t helping me pay for college and I agree with their decision,” Smeyres said, who attends Kent Stark and Kent Tuscarawas campuses. “I’m the one going to school, not them. Why should they pay for it?”

Other students have parents who cannot help them with college.

Angela Coomes, junior nursing major attending Kent Stark, had to change her plans of attending the University of Florida in Gainesville when she learned her parents wouldn’t be able to help her pay the tuition.

“My parents weren’t able to help and I had the added cost of schoolbooks, a car payment and insurance and credit card bills,” said Coomes. “It just wasn’t going to work.”

Coomes, who works full-time at two jobs, is now planning to transfer to Walsh University in spring 2006 so she can try to finish her education early.

“I’m willing to sacrifice paying double at Walsh if it means I’ll get done sooner,” she said.

According to Evans, taking on a full course load in order to get finished with school earlier is one solution for students.

“If students take 15 to 17 hours a semester, they would be paying the same as if they took only 11 hours and they could be getting done a year earlier,” Evans said.

Lovett said attending a branch of Kent State also helps to make ends meet, although it doesn’t give her the full college experience she would like.

“I attend both campuses because it’s cheaper to take most classes at Stark and only a few at main,” Lovett said. “Only being in Kent a couple days a week makes it hard to make friends.”

Many students who pay for college themselves also find they need to work full-time or work several jobs to help pay the hefty price attached to a college education.

“I work a lot, which means I never have time for anything else, such as studying,” Lovett said. “My grades have definitely dropped.”

Constance Dubick, associate director of Student Financial Aid, said she is impressed with the way students handle the pressure of paying for college.

“I see students every day who, despite their financial responsibilities, are working several jobs, saving money and contributing to Kent State through either tutoring or community service,” Dubick said. “They are students who are a real credit to this university.”

And despite the financial struggle, many students agree that paying for school does have its positive qualities.

“Paying for college has taught me how to be responsible and manage my money because when it’s your money that’s being spent, you are less likely to screw around with it,” Smeyres said.

Coomes and Lovett agreed.

“I’ve definitely learned that a little goes a long way,” Coomes said.

Contact features reporter Michelle Poje at [email protected].