The gravy train

May 062004
Authors: Eric Klamper

College may have been the best years of your life, possibly all

seven of them, but now it’s time to wave goodbye to that lifestyle

and make a graceful transition into your very own comfortable

cubicle, pressed business suit or whatever your degree has brought

into your future.

The road to graduation can be a costly one, unless of course you

skip the road entirely and hop a ride on the gravy train


Many students graduate from Colorado State University without

ever having to incur any of the crippling costs of higher education

and the life that goes along with it- usually because someone else

was generous enough to financially support him/her through the

pricey proceedings of these college years.

If you find yourself about step off the gravy train and into

reality, here’s a quick estimate at the reimbursement check you’ll

have to write in order to square away your college debt to your

parents, if you should ever feel so obliged.

For you in-state graduates, four years of tuition alone ran you

close to $15,000 according to the financial office at CSU.

Rent and utility payments, at an average of $350 each month, sum

up to another $16,800.

Assuming you were able to limit your food and entertainment

budget to an average of $10 per day, that’s still $14,400 after

four years.

The grand total for four years is $46,200. If you took five

years, which you probably did, increase that debt to $57,720.

If you came to CSU from out of state, the price of college life

was $88,064 for four years and $95,864 for five years, using the

same figures.

It would most likely take every penny you make for the first

couple of post-graduate years just to get out of the red with the


“I hope that some day I’ll be able to pay them back for the

disgusting amounts of their money I’ve spent up here,” said Jon

Thieson, a junior open-option major and gravy train profiteer. “I

wouldn’t make it in college if it weren’t for their financial


Many other students have had a totally different college

experience as they paid for their years at CSU by working long

hours and receiving loans from the school.

“The average indebtedness of a graduating senior in the year

2003 was $16,075,” said Christie Leighton, associate director of

student financial services. “But most students have other sources

of financial aid such as grants and scholarships so the price of

college is really much higher.”

Despite the drawback of loan payments, some students believe

that the financially emancipated life is one of the vital aspects

of college learning.

“I don’t think that (the gravy-train-riders) fully appreciate

the opportunities that supporting yourself offers,” said Jason

Lewis, a senior history major. “You haven’t really been introduced

into the real world until you’ve learned how to stand on your


Since the gravy-train-riders never had to work to earn their

money during college, some people may believe that they don’t know

what it’s like to budget or limit their spending.

“People who get it all for doing nothing just don’t know how to

appreciate the dollar,” Lewis said.

Many of the gravy-train-riders disagree with this idea and even

claim that having financial support only increases the amount one

can absorb from their college experience.

“Having a credit card and other financial resources can

depreciate the value of a dollar only if you abuse those

privileges,” said Bianca Pugh, a junior finance major. “They also

taught me how quickly money can be spent and how important my

college degree will be for my future.”

Sometimes, in order to help ensure a successful future,

activities of the present must be sacrificed. This is especially

true for students with limited financial resources. The social

aspects of college life are an integral part of development and

spending money is often a precursor to participation.

“This is a time where you can find out who you are and what you

want with life,” said Pugh. “I don’t think this time should be

crowded with worrying about how to pay for tuition and rent.”

The overall effects of the gravy train are yet to be made clear.

Having your college life paid for by someone else may create an

apathetic work ethic but it also may create socially and

academically successful students. Either way, by the time you’ve

signed your last bar tab, dropped off your last rent check and

bought your last pizza at two in the morning with your credit card,

the cost of this glorious life you’ve been leading the last few

years is something that any person wishes they could avoid or pass

off to someone else.

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