Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Tuition Free Forward and My Student Loans (A Memoir)

Last week, the Annual Fund staff celebrated the first Tuition Free Forward (TFF) day. The day's festivities were based around the symbolic day when tuition quits paying for a student's tuition and donations pick up the rest of the bill. We set up in the Hamiliton-Williams hallway during lunch and gave out prizes and whatnot to students who answered questions about the Annual Fund correctly. All in all, I was pretty jazzed, if nothing else from the three cups of coffee I drank prior that morning and all of the candy I ate while talking with students.

Last night, while I was driving home from Cincy in my 1988 Cougar (more on that later), I was thinking about TFF, about the Annual Fund goal (which is $3.8 million), and my school loans from Otterbein. Ah yes, my college loans. I remember well the day my senior year when I got a bright yellow envelope that held the number of dollars that I owed for my four years of bliss.

I think that was the time that my world came crashing down around me. Up until that point, I guess I thought everything was free. I assumed that Otterbein was just a bunch of nice people that wanted to see me succeed; which they were. Evidently they were also being paid on my behalf by the government and the bank for the previous four years. The number was so big that I laughed; to be honest, the number was so big that it wasn't even real to me. It might as well have said "Jason Thompson, you owe One Gajillion dollars."

I now have been paying my loans for about three years. The number, it would seem, is the same (or larger) that it was the fateful night years ago. It also still seems fake (maybe not fake, but unrealistic; like me getting a date with Keira Knightly). According to my finance professor at Fisher College of Business (he's Swedish; apparently Swedes are good at accounting and bobsledding), this is due to an interesting concept called "Compounding Interest." Apparently, when you apply this "Compounding Interest" to your savings account or a CD, it's good. When it is on something you have to pay, not so good. I don't even look at it anymore- I have it set to automatic payment via the internet. You know the saying "out of sight, out mind?" That is the state of my loans and me: if I ignore them, they'll go away (in about 10 to 30 years).

This brings me back to the TFF. As a student, I had no idea about the Annual Fund or what purpose it served. Had I known that it made my tuition cheaper by helping me out, I would have been very grateful and more aware of the alumni, parents, and friends that donated to the University. That is the point of Tuition Free Forward: students need to be aware of what has been done for them, and what they will need to do for future students when they are out of Ohio Wesleyan.

A Rant About My Commute
The commute from downtown Columbus to Delaware is precisely 33 minutes. I know this because I drive it five days a week. I walk out the door of my house at 7:47, settle into my car, turn on "The Bob and Tom Show," and begin the process of watching car after car drive down Neil Avenue. Each completely ignores my turn signal that signifies that I, too, need on the road. Perhaps these people had fought a similar battle at ther house earlier in the morning and, based upon principal, will be damned before losing their right to their commute.

Finally, around 7:57, I become fed up with waiting, close my eyes, and merge onto Neil Avenue as fast as I possibly can. I don't care who or what I pull out in front of: old woman, dump truck, cop, whatever. My anger and frustration of waiting overwhelms my cares for other people or my car. It's every man for himself in the world of morning commutes.

Currently, I own two cars: a 2003 Nissan Xterra that I bought after graduation from college (does everyone know how long a 5 year loan is, especially when you are paying on a 15 year loan for college? Long. They don't tell you that in undergrad) and a 1988 Mercury Cougar that was my sister's prior to her move to Los Angeles. I drive the latter to work.

The Coog (as I have aptly named it) is probably the origin of my complete lack of regard for the well-being of myself and of other people as I pull out onto the street. That car is a masterpiece of American metal and rust and probably could withstand a bus hitting ramming into its side. Do I find it ironic that I have a new car that I rarely drive and another car (which, by the way, I would not have been caught dead in high school) that I drive to work everyday? Maybe, but at 7:45 in the morning, I don't care; I deal with the self-deprecating judgment after my first cup of coffee.

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