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Harvard professor recounts his experience as a student at Amherst with financial aid

TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2213 replies103 threadsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
In this New York Times article, a current Harvard professor recounts his experience when he was a student at Amherst: how, although he received financial aid, he struggled during breaks when the dining hall was closed, and he struggled to help out his family at home:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/10/magazine/college-inequality.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share
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Replies to: Harvard professor recounts his experience as a student at Amherst with financial aid

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29865 replies59 threads Senior Member
    We lived across the street from a family that was reasonably well to do, but constantly struggling with money problems due to the husband always sending money to his family overseas.

    According to the wife, it was both a strong cultural and important family thing for him. It caused a lot of friction in the marriage, as the children got older. The family members regularly came to visit and spent a lot of time at that house.

    So, for those students who have this obligation to support family, it doesn’t necessarily end even after college. I don’t know the solution to the stress such a situation puts on young people just starting a separate life from loved ones. I do not believe that the college or the financial aid student should be taking on that sort of support, however.

    I’ve seen some bad situations arise when a student gets financial aid, scholarships, gifts and family sometimes outright steal the stuff. If a student feels obligated to work megs hours and deprive self to send more money to family, that is a choice that makes it that much more difficult to survive college
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13212 replies247 threads Senior Member
    Amherst did make some changes since he left (or while he was still there). Dorms and some level of dining services are open during all breaks. This helps the kids who can't go home, it also helps athletes and others who may need to be on campus for non-academic reasons.
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  • MeddyMeddy 524 replies35 threads Member
    I read his book this summer, "The Privileged Poor". A good read for me knowing he was once a student at Amherst. He also drew on the experiences of students at other elite schools in writing his book. Fortunately as @OHMomof2 mentions, some changes had occurred and of course there are many more that can be made. I've encouraged my daughter to speak up, because only once they know can they fix

    I do love the willingness and openness that Amherst College seems to have in accommodating students with needs that aren't only solved by throwing money at a problem. I heard that a few years back, the President of Amherst invited students to her home for Thanksgiving dinner. I would have loved to be invited to that!
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3280 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Anyone else puzzled by his final story, where he claims his family wanted his name removed from the utility bill when he was 32, and that he had been on it for 2 decades? I don't think so.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39512 replies2176 threads Super Moderator
    One of my favorite memories from college is having Thanksgiving dinner with my boyfriend at the home of an MIT professor - he invited all the kids who weren't going home. I had traveled from Austin to visit the BF, so that's why I was there.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35100 replies398 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2019
    A lot has changed in the decade or so since he was an undergrad.
    edited September 2019
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  • 3puppies3puppies 1749 replies12 threads Senior Member
    Anyone else puzzled by his final story, where he claims his family wanted his name removed from the utility bill when he was 32, and that he had been on it for 2 decades? I don't think so.

    I am not sure if this happened or not, but in my volunteer work, I have met a couple of families who have exploited a loophole in signing up for utilities in a new apartment - they sign their teenage kid up for the family's service. DirectTV used to be more - shall I say "relaxed" - in how someone could sign up - if Mom and Dad had already signed up to get the free introductory (12 month) program they might not be eligible again, so they sign the teenage kid up. As long as the bill got paid eventually, DirectTV didn't care - so they kept the service.

    A lot has changed in the decade or so since he was an undergrad.

    And reading the article, he deserves credit as he was instrumental in getting things changed. As a junior he lobbied the dean at Amherst to allow low-income students to get meals at the coffee shop during breaks. He understood that you can sometimes change things by asking.

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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13212 replies247 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2019
    @roycroftmom wrote:
    Anyone else puzzled by his final story, where he claims his family wanted his name removed from the utility bill when he was 32, and that he had been on it for 2 decades?

    I took that to mean he'd been paying it that long. But since he was 12? - that does seem a bit off.

    He's been promoting a book for a few months or so, so lots of interviews:
    Sometimes we couldn’t pay the electric bill, and I had to stop studying when night fell.[/quote
    https://beta.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/03/18/i-was-first-generation-college-student-an-elite-college-admissions-scandal-reopens-old-wounds/
    edited September 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79681 replies712 threads Senior Member
    OHMomof2 wrote: »
    @roycroftmom wrote:
    Anyone else puzzled by his final story, where he claims his family wanted his name removed from the utility bill when he was 32, and that he had been on it for 2 decades?

    I took that to mean he'd been paying it that long. But since he was 12? - that does seem a bit off.

    Perhaps he was used as the name on the bill because he was the family member who could pass the utility company's credit check?
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3280 replies39 threads Senior Member
    I don't think credit checks work for children.
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  • brantlybrantly 4027 replies71 threads Senior Member
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    OHMomof2 wrote: »
    @roycroftmom wrote:
    Anyone else puzzled by his final story, where he claims his family wanted his name removed from the utility bill when he was 32, and that he had been on it for 2 decades?

    I took that to mean he'd been paying it that long. But since he was 12? - that does seem a bit off.

    Perhaps he was used as the name on the bill because he was the family member who could pass the utility company's credit check?

    That's what I thought.
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  • JJames030JJames030 5 replies0 threads New Member
    I don't know what amount of perpetual entitlement this professor feels he deserves.
    Ask any international student even from middle class families, everything this guy
    whines about himself and his family every single international student
    has lived through it and flourished in one generation - guaranteed!

    Now as an American citizen college preparing for 2 American born kids,
    my biggest whine is my high EFC score.

    >Amherst felt a little colder — or perhaps just lonelier
    Yes, hence you by choice took up a job in Harvard ?
    Why did you not go back to teach in Miami, be honest with yourself first!

    >without the money to return home for spring break like so many of my peers.
    An extremely financially illiterate Harvard Professor. I and every international
    student earned and paid our trip back to Asia once every 2 years. Amex had a
    'special deal' for students where you could charge a typical $1200 coach ticket to
    Asia and pay it back with interest over a year.
    Typical ticket to Miami ? $250 - God forbid he had to fly on Spirit @ $150 he would
    whine about that trip endlessly.

    > But even as I write these words, I’m aware that this is exactly the kind of story that
    > poor, black and Latinx students are conditioned to write for college application
    > essays.
    More ignorance, it is not just your race but your birth in the US that gives you
    this entitlement to write this essay. Do you think any black and any other non
    white race from any country can write this essay ?

    > Life in privileged communities means that children traverse safer streets
    I know exactly what you mean, i grew up in a safe middle class neighborhood
    in a '3rd' world country. And I lived among'st your race on ML King Street as
    a student earning $4.25/hr federal min wage in 1991. My landlord was your race.
    He was welcoming of foreign students earning min wage and paying rent on time
    for 1 room.
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13212 replies247 threads Senior Member
    @JJames030 As a result of Anthony's Jack's activism about 10 year ago, the dorms and dining hall at Amherst stay open on breaks.

    Guess which students stay on campus during breaks most? International students. They also get the benefit of being fed and housed when they can't go home (whether because they can't afford it or because it's just too far to go).

    Not many colleges are in the financial position that Amherst is. I know most colleges close on breaks or ask international students to move into the one dorm they keep open, but IMO it is definitely a perk worth considering, for a poor domestic student or an international student. Or heck, an athlete or student with a job who has to be on campus.

    Of course students with their own housing as you describe at the end there don't have to leave for breaks either. But at a residential college that requires on campus living, that's not an option.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29865 replies59 threads Senior Member
    I am not as sympathetic to this student as he and his article wants readers to be.

    I’d like perspectives of students from the very low income, crime ridden neighborhoods with challenging home lives to write their perspectives. They don’t have schools like Amherst to cater.

    It’s a big problem when the family is not only unable. to help but poach upon their own kids. It’s also not the college’s job to subsidize that even though it jeopardizes the students’ education.

    I’m trying to work out a situation where a kid would be optimally away from home due to challenging, problematic, family and home environment, not one bit conducive, even threatening to educational accomplishment. No money to pay for Away School. I don’t see the kid lasting a semester as a full time commuter.

    It would be such a gift for him to have opportunity to go away to school. But, then, we’d have to
    Face the luxurious challenges of that. And , no younger in cheek, challenges, indeed they will be But it would be many steps up from staying at home, being on scene for problems and blow ups as well as the home temptations, that would compete with commuting to school and doing the schoolwork.
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  • JJames030JJames030 5 replies0 threads New Member
    OHMomof2 wrote: »
    @JJames030
    Guess which students stay on campus during breaks most? International students. They also get the benefit of being fed and housed when they can't go home

    But at a residential college that requires on campus living, that's not an option.

    During my time we had only some female international students live on campus
    by choice. There was no benefit of living on campus except campus provided
    security for late night escort. All costs on campus were higher included standard
    text books. We did not have an Amazon app to compare prices, but even 30 years
    ago most international students had access to usenet mailing list to compare
    costs within a campus and between universities.

    All International students pay full tuition, so every cost even what i now consider
    simple living and food costs become extremely price sensitive.


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  • CottonTalesCottonTales 1362 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2019
    My daughter through Amherst got to know Tony Jack up
    Meddy wrote: »
    I read his book this summer, "The Privileged Poor". A good read for me knowing he was once a student at Amherst. He also drew on the experiences of students at other elite schools in writing his book. Fortunately as @OHMomof2 mentions, some changes had occurred and of course there are many more that can be made. I've encouraged my daughter to speak up, because only once they know can they fix

    I do love the willingness and openness that Amherst College seems to have in accommodating students with needs that aren't only solved by throwing money at a problem. I heard that a few years back, the President of Amherst invited students to her home for Thanksgiving dinner. I would have loved to be invited to that!

    @Meddy, my daughter was invited to dinner at her house, about 2 weeks after she became President. I think there were 12 people there, including Senator Koons. It was a great honor for her to be invited.
    edited September 2019
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13212 replies247 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2019
    JJames030 wrote: »
    During my time we had only some female international students live on campus
    by choice. There was no benefit of living on campus except campus provided
    security for late night escort.

    There are schools where living off campus is simply not an option - it is not allowed. The subject of the article - Amherst - is one of them. Virtually everyone lives on campus. So closing dorms and dining halls at breaks IS an issue for students who can't leave for whatever reason.
    edited September 2019
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  • MeddyMeddy 524 replies35 threads Member
    @CottonTales What a wonderful invitation to receive! My girl participated in a book discussion that took place in her home. I love that Biddy invites students over. Just one more reason that Amherst College is such a special place.
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  • waverlywizzardwaverlywizzard 180 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Prof. Jack spoke at Trinity this fall on his book. It was a rapt audience. Trinity has made decisive steps to increase diversity and first gen. students under Admissions Director and (the only) african american female president in NESCAC. All the colleges have a lot of room for growth to address implicit bias and challenges faced by these students. His hook "Access Ain't Inclusion" certainly resonated with the packed house at Trin.
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