The rich classhole


Unless you’re footing the bill for your entire lecture, shut up about your parents paying for a victory lap

By Alison Roach
Photos by Mark Burnham

It’s no small secret that post-secondary education is expensive. “Oh woe is me, I’m a starving university student,” is a pretty common refrain, and for good reason. We all agree that tuition fees are slowly sucking the life out of us, right? Right? Wrong.

Last week, in my easy science breadth class, we got our midterm marks. As everyone was perusing their grades and letting out guttural noises of victory or defeat, I heard from behind me: “Yo man, I failed! Guess I can just take this again next semester,” followed by various pats on the back, “Yeah mans,” and guffaws.

I slowly filled with an introverted rage. Does he even know how much retaking a course will cost? Does he not care? That’s not even taking into account the extra time he’ll have to spend on this. It was beyond comprehension.

Personally, when it comes to financing my degree, I’m on my own. So I work full-time during my summers at a job with a decent wage, which gets me through most of first semester. Part-time during the year helps to keep up with living expenses, and student loans cover the rest. I thought this wasn’t a rare case, but it was pretty clear that guffaw-guy isn’t under the same constraints. He’s probably not footing the bill.

Since he was so nonchalant about the dollars behind his bold declaration, I decided to go home and do the math for him. If the SFU website is to be believed, your average three-credit course will run you just over $500. Say guffaw-guy is unlucky, and he has a new prof and has to buy a new textbook, we’ll tack another $100. So his victory lap of the class will run him a neat $600, or just over 57 hours of work at minimum wage, which is likely more hours than he will even spend in lecture for this one class during the course of the semester.

I wondered if I was in a minority in finding guffaw-guy’s attitude outrageous. I know most people have some parental help with school fees, but how many? To what extent? I conducted a brief survey of my friends via mass text to get to the bottom of this, and saw a few definite trends emerging. Most who responded have some financial help from parents, but this did not cover everything. Education funds set up by parents are apparently prone to running out part-way through their education or only extending to cover certain things, leaving them to fend for the rest themselves. There was an overwhelming response that the first couple of years had been easy enough financially, but the next ones were much more difficult.

I also asked one of my friends who had to retake a course if she regretted it from a financial standpoint and her response was an enthusiastic yes: “Don’t even get me started! No one should have to pay for math. Taking it is bad enough.” Another friend has an education fund from her family that will see her all the way through, but emphasized that she knows how lucky she is to have it, and that it allows her more freedom than most students have.

My point is that if you see a guffaw-guy in your class, kindly punch him in the face. As far as I can tell, he is the minority, and he doesn’t know nor appreciate how good he’s got it. You could also go as far as to kindly inform him that his gravy train might eventually run out, but does he really deserve our kindness?