Mo’ money, mo’ problems

Your Mom Goes To College

mia-villanueva

Tuition: $14,068. Rent: $2,600. Books: $565. Gas: $53. Parking Permit: $377. Having the financial aid office reduce your funding midsemester without any prior warning: priceless.

After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in English in spring 2017, I returned in the fall to complete my second degree in gender studies. With only a senior seminar and an elective left to take, my advisor gave me the green light to take a reduced course load.

Many student-parents at UC Berkeley have taken advantage of UC Berkeley’s reduced course load policy, which allows student-parents to drop down to eight units while still being considered full-time students. Until this semester, I had personally never taken advantage of this academic plan. Many parents, however, have found that it greatly increases their ability to keep up with their rigorous coursework while still being able to spend quality time with their kids.

Come last week, I logged onto my CalCentral account to make an appointment with my advisor, only to find that I had been billed a hefty $1,400 by Financial Aid. The charge read “Federal Pell Grant.” That was it. No explanation. Nothing.

Cue my panic attack, followed by a two-hour hold to speak with someone at the Financial Aid office who inevitably gave me some kind of variation of the non-answer “these things differ on a case-to-case basis.”

I came to find that many other student-parents were also billed with this ominous charge on their Cal Central account, none of whom had any clue as to why.

After another hourlong hold on the phone and four hours waiting on campus for an in-person appointment, I was finally informed by an advisor that the Pell Grant (which is a federal grant issued by the United States government out of the general federal revenue) only recognizes students enrolled in 15 units as full-time. Thus, student-parents taking reduced course loads had their Pell Grant fundings reduced and were required to pay back their original disbursements.

For many student-parents, unexpected shifts in financial aid such as this are significantly more stressful than they are for the average student.

Don’t get me wrong — financial stress in college happens to more than just student-parents. According to the National Student Wellness Financial Study, seven out of 10 college students feel stressed about their personal finances. For students attending UC Berkeley, which is conveniently located in a city with one of the highest cost-of-living rates in the nation, the personal expenses (rent, food, etc.) tacked onto an already costly tuition bill are overwhelming.

Student-parents, however, have to factor in the additional cost of raising children. According to Time magazine, the average cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood is $233,610. Raising your kid in the Bay Area, where the average cost of daycare sits at a cool $1,900 a month per child? $402,112.

Thanks to Facebook and the amazing student-parent population at UC Berkeley that utilizes it, I found the resolution to my problem.

The post on the UCB Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention Facebook page read,“REDUCED COURSE LOAD STUDENTS this week you may notice your Pell Grant funding has been reduced and a charge on your account. However, this reduction should be offset by a ‘UC Pell Grant Replacement’ for the exact same amount. Sometimes this process can take a few days and during that time it can appear that you owe more money.”

I was informed. And I was relieved.

The student-parent community can no longer be left in the dark, as they are with many conversations that go on within campus.

The changes to their financial aid packages were both drastic and imminent, yet there seemed to be no heads-up given by the university to the student-parents who opted to take reduced course loads.

Easily accessible information is the most invaluable resource to student-parents, who are constantly having to think just not about themselves, but about their children, as well. The campus needs to continue to shift its culture to be more student-parent-friendly, especially regarding matters of financial aid. This means keeping students up-to-date with changes to their financial aid packages and making assistance to them readily available when these changes occur.

And no, holding for two hours to speak to financial aid advisor who has to forward your case to their supervisor before they answer any questions doesn’t count.

Mia Villanueva writes the Thursday column on her experience as a student-parent at UC Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].

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  • Allen Barth☮️on🌎

    Mia, thanks for sharing your story. The comments here stating that the majors that get high paying jobs are the only majors worth getting is simply wrong. This is an incorrect expectation of what a valuable major is. Many people with high paying jobs have terrible writing ability so they need an editor to help them out. In the high tech world, of the bay area, there are jobs for you. The tech companies can train you on the technical sides of the work and need people that can work with the engineers to make the written details attractive. Tech companies want to be seen as inclusive, want to actually be inclusive; therefor, a back ground in gender studies helps with this. Women sadly make less than males for the same work. There is an inequality; therefor, writing skills plus gender studies is a way to connect to the underpaid gender. The negative comments appear the work of those who don’t understand higher education.

    • lspanker

      Mia, thanks for sharing your story. The comments here stating that the majors that get high paying jobs are the only majors worth getting is simply wrong.

      Excuse me, but if you’re going to college to improve your economic condition, wouldn’t it make sense to pursue something that at least provides some type of compensatory employment to pay back the investment in time or money? This isn’t an issue of someone choosing a course of studies that perhaps pays less than a STEM-related degree but matches the abilities and interests of the student and provides some type of viable career path (business administration, accounting, skilled trades, etc). Grievance/indoctrination/victimization programs such as Gender Studies provide NOTHING in terms of either academic rigor or marketable job skills, so they are essentially worthless. If you believe otherwise, tell us how many jobs listed online specify a degree in Gender Studies as an employment prerequisite.

      Many people with high paying jobs have terrible writing ability

      What good is having terrific writing ability if your mind is packed full on nonsensical mush?

      Tech companies want to be seen as inclusive, want to actually be inclusive; therefor, a back ground in gender studies helps with this.

      They can be just as “inclusive” doing what they are doing now, hiring hundreds of young female engineers from China and India, who unlike your Gender Studies grads, actually have some useful skills.

      Women sadly make less than males for the same work.

      Nonsensical BS that has been refuted by several studies that take in account factors such as years of experience and willingness to take on certain work that involves any degree of personal hardship or inconvenience. When I meet women engineers who are willing to back their bags on a moment’s notice, get on a 12-hour flight with a laptop and 50 lbs of tools, and spend the next couple of weeks working 10-12 hour days to troubleshoot some equipment or process issue in some factory in Asia, I’ll take this whole “gender wage gap” issue seriously. Until then…

      The negative comments appear the work of those who don’t understand higher education.

      Oh, we understand higher education fully. It’s people like you who have little or no idea as to what goes on outside the cloistered world of academia, particularly in the corporate working world where courses such as Gender Studies are viewed as an absolute joke…

      • intranethatemachine

        What did you major in, and what do you do for a living? How do you balance your work and life while having 10000+ comments on DailyCal?

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          Let me guess, you are a student who hasn’t worked.

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          Why don’t you attack his arguments he makes. Oh wait, it’s because you don’t have any facts to back your feelings argument. Keep on keeping on…

          • lspanker

            Wow, he was certainly a rude one, wasn’t he? Didn’t even take a moment to say “goodbye”… ;O)

        • lspanker

          What did you major in, and what do you do for a living?

          BSChE, Cal Berkley 1995. I’m employed as a (surprise!) engineer.

          How do you balance your work and life while having 10000+ comments on DailyCal?

          Uh, I have been alive for over half a century, and been online for nearly half of that time. I did the math and that averages about 3-4 comments per day, which are usually while taking a break from work or while on the road traveling. So what’s it to you, and why would you care, other than the fact that you’re not happy with my comments but can’t refute a word I said?

          • Juliet Lewis

            Doesn’t seem like you have a job with how much you’re on here tbh.

          • lspanker

            So tell us what you do for a living… if you can.

    • inb4 “diversity hire”

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      If women really made .78 cents for every male. There would be all female companies EVERYWHERE! Go do some research about the gender pay gap from the otherside (aka conservative side) it actually has stats, facts and uses logic!

    • California Defender

      Many people with high paying jobs (you mean STEM) are terrible writers? Where did you get that from? Let me guess… an unemployed English major.

      Yes, tech companies want to seem inclusive to sell more products to people who place more value on image than substance (ie millennials). Tim Cook would put on a pirate hat and dance the cha cha if it meant selling more $1,000 iPhones to them. But diversity IS the pirate hat and gender studies grads dance the cha cha. But R&D = profitability and that is the tech industry’s reason for existence. The moment they think pirate hats are their business is the moment they go out of it.

      But forget all that. Let’s focus on Mia. A struggling young parent who is facing a mountain of debt. A good parent would consider the ROI of a degree to pay back those loans and support their family. If she came from a rich family, she would have the luxury of studying whatever nonsense she wants.

      She doesn’t have that luxury so she has her hand in my wallet because I did the responsible thing. And we’ll never have ☮️on🌎 until everyone does. Don’t get me started…

    • Oakley

      – Beta male

  • Oakley

    It won’t be long before the child exhibits more common sense

  • BlackConservative

    I’m just a little surprised your not embarrassed writing this. Just a little though…

    • Juliet Lewis

      Where does it say per semester? No reading comprehension skills. Maybe you should have majored in English -__-

      • BlackConservative

        What time period do you believe the $53 dollars is for?

        • Juliet Lewis

          $53 dollars could be per month..or even per semester. Public transit is the heart beat of the Bay Area and many students utilize it..whether it be the bus or Bart.

  • here is something new: Many student-parents at UC Berkeley have taken advantage of UC Berkeley’s reduced course load policy, which allows student-parents to drop down to eight units while still being considered full-time students.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      No no…no one ever takes advantage of the system for themselves. It’s almost like they don’t realize how selfish their ideologies are.

  • California Defender

    “However, this reduction should be offset by a ‘UC Pell Grant Replacement’ for the exact same amount. Sometimes this process can take a few days and during that time it can appear that you owe more money.”

    I was informed. And I was relieved.”

    Because it’s FREE money, right?

    As a taxpayer WORKING and PAYING for your worthless education, I see no relief in sight.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      It truly is sad that they don’t realize it. I cannot believe what we are paying for.

  • lspanker

    After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in English in spring 2017, I returned in the fall to complete my second degree in gender studies.

    You think that’s going to improve your financial situation at all? Sounds like it’s time for you to stop being a professional student and get a job.

    • California Defender

      With degrees in English and Gender Studies? She’s SOL with no employable skills. I wouldn’t hire her to sweep a floor.

      Unless her husband (or whatever diminutive thing they call it in Berkeley), is bringing home the bacon, her poor educational decisions are tantamount to child abuse.

      • Juliet Lewis

        Many English and GWS majors go on to pursue law school, Masters in Business, PHD programs in English, teaching credentials, etc. You speak with conviction about her career path…which you know NOTHING about.

        • California Defender

          With mounting debt and a child, do you think she’d commit even MORE time and money, neither of which she has, to a law degree which has a horrifically high unemployment rate at 40%?

          Or MBA? They’re a dime a dozen. PhD in English? Another 8-10 years of study before she makes a dime or sees her kid? Again, child abuse.

    • BlackConservative

      Seriously, it’d probably be a better life move to just do a 2 kid daycare under the table gig. I mean anything in gender studies can be learned through books or the internet. I cannot believe my taxes are going to her education. California is going to be only rich people and Mexicans in 20 years with the way I see Californians thinking.

      • Juliet Lewis

        Why don’t you read actual statistics and see how a degree in ANYTHING actually benefits your financial situation tenfold. Idiot.

        • BlackConservative

          Yes, how about you learn what ROI stands for and means, and then maybe you will understand that a college investment in certain fields is a complete waste of money. Show me some stats on how secondary degrees in gender studies/non-stem subjects help your financial situation rather than just garner debt. You obviously do not have to pay for your college. But once again, where are your broad obvious stat that people who have a college degree make more money than those that don’t. Show me some stats Juliet? I bet you wont, but I truly hope you do. Tip: Just try to think for yourself sometimes.

          • Juliet Lewis

            I know many Cal Alumni that have graduated with degrees in English with emphasis in other disciplines…history, gender studies, media studies, etc. Many have lucrative, high-paying jobs in law, tech, academia, etc. The key to succeeding in the work force is grit, something that this young mother who is still pursuing her degree while working obviously has. The degree is her stepping-stone. You go, Mia!

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            why does she need to go get a free second degree in a subject that will provide her with nothing in the workforce?

          • lspanker

            Yes, how about you learn what ROI stands for and means

            Knocked that one right over the fence in left field…

    • Juliet Lewis

      How do you know she is not already working using her B.A. in English?