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Steve Hansen: Earning an education was better than being given one

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Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 12:00 am

Call me cruel if you like, but I really don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who expect others to pay for their college educations.

Now, some may think I’m hypocritical because my first four years were paid in full. You see, my parents were true believers in higher education and were willing to sacrifice their lifestyles just to help their kids take full advantage of all available opportunities.

Problem was, I wasn’t the one making the sacrifice. I saw myself as “entitled.” After all, if “The Old Man” or some government program wanted to pay my way, I certainly was willing to take advantage of it. But the results of this attitude showed in academic performance.

I coasted through college and rarely opened a book. “Cramming” the night before a test was my typical study pattern. I majored in music but had not considered the limited occupational opportunities available for this subject. When graduation came, my GPA was nothing to celebrate.

After a short stint in the Army, I soon got a job teaching middle school physical education in a rural area. But standing in a field on a cold, foggy day, while watching kids run around a make-believe track, was not the way I wanted to spend the next 35 years. For a more stimulating future, a postgraduate degree was a must.

I approached my father about returning to school for a master’s degree in psychology. He approved of the idea and was more than willing to pay the tuition. But during the conversation, something changed my attitude. I knew this time, things would have to be different. Consequently, his generous offer was turned down.

Instead, I prepared to handle this goal completely own my own. I was single at the time and made sure there were no obligations other than focusing on the task at hand.

Because of my former C-plus grade average, most graduate schools weren’t interested unless a high score could be earned on the Graduate Record Examination. To make up for past sins, I studied day and night. The result was a placement in the 90th percentile.

My lifestyle changed from a modern apartment to a rundown old house shared with a wannabe musician, a farmworker and a widow. My car went from a late-model Corvette to a 12-year-old Dodge pickup with over 200,000 miles.

I worked to support myself and attended classes mostly at night. Along the way, I paid my expensive private university tuition. The 60 semester unit program took longer than the normal two-year average.

But this time, the results were quite different. I graduated with straight As, except for one B. Interestingly enough, that one grade did not appear on my transcript. When I approached my professor about getting it fixed, he couldn’t remember what grade he had given me. Although I could have “misled” and created a perfect record, the truth was told. This was going to be an honest endeavor from beginning to end.

I had done so well in the program that the university asked me to join their faculty part-time. I taught a variety of graduate courses for the next four years.

So, in the final analysis, was taking the hard way over the easy way worth it? For me, absolutely! The self-esteem and pride earned were irreplaceable. There was no motivator equal to earning every step of the way and making every minute count toward a successful goal.

The quest made me realize that the time had come to stop mooching off the labors of others. It was a real “growing up” experience that has never been regretted.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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8 comments:

  • Eric Barrow posted at 9:35 am on Mon, Feb 17, 2014.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1562

    I have to agree with David and Jeff. Steve seems to miss the fact that he was a twenty five year old middle school PE teacher and he was still able to drive a corvette. Like many who come from privileged background (yes if your parents supported you for four years while you partied in school you came from a privileged background) don't understand how hard it is to succeed when you don't have they same sort of support system.
    I also would like to argue with Steve's theory that those needing assistance are mooching. The benefits from an education comes from the knowledge and tools gained that stay with you for life, we don't pay for people's schooling as much as we invest in individuals. We then expect them to make something of their education and in turn help others. It is a shame when one goes through this process and comes out the other end not knowing it is their privilege to give back.

     
  • Christina Welch posted at 6:40 pm on Sat, Feb 15, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 423

    Jeff,
    After double-checking my good old Merriam Webster's to make sure the difference between sympathy and empathy was what I thought (and it was)
    I definitely can see your point. Mr. Hansen has never lived a poor life and can't really feel or know what that is like. And conservatives do tend to be better off financially, so I could see that, too. Let's hope sympathy can be enough. At least there's that...

     
  • Jeff Tillett posted at 7:35 am on Fri, Feb 14, 2014.

    Jeff Tillett Posts: 551

    One of Mr. Hansen's problem isn't that he lacks sympathy, it's that he lacks empathy (a common attribute in conservatives according to recent studies). That and a whole lot of perspective.

     
  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 4:44 pm on Thu, Feb 13, 2014.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2362

    I believe that those who cannot initially pay for their education should be able to get some assistance. However, once they graduate - and they SHOULD graduate - it should indicate that they've chosen a path that will provide them with the ability to earn much more had they not received the assistance. As such, over time they should most certainly be expected to repay the money.

     
  • Patricia Sommer posted at 11:49 am on Thu, Feb 13, 2014.

    Patriciann Posts: 2

    I don't feel, as some seem to suggest, that this was a condemnation of all public support for higher education for those in need. It seems more simply a personal account of how with maturity someone decided to 'grab the bull by the horns' and take responsibility for 'self' and achieved a sought after goal. I think this was wonderful to read. I had grants and scholarships to assist with my academic endeavors and would have never had the opportunity for an education in any other way as I grew up in foster care without family and was even forced to leave high school early and was not allowed to graduate. I later received my GED and proceeded with college with public financial help that I will always be thankful for. My GPA was 3.80.

    Kudos Steve for your accomplishment!!!

     
  • Christina Welch posted at 10:19 am on Thu, Feb 13, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 423

    [thumbup]

    One of the main causes of poverty is lack of education. I would think we should embrace subsidized education as a means to address this problem. So many people complain about the subsidies given for welfare. If we educate our poor, then they won't need to be on welfare.

     
  • wendy coe posted at 5:40 am on Thu, Feb 13, 2014.

    wendy coe Posts: 39

    BRAVO!

     
  • David Diskin posted at 5:42 pm on Wed, Feb 12, 2014.

    David Diskin Posts: 184

    This letter helps illustrate exactly how clueless some people can be when it comes to the opportunities that those less-fortunate have.

    You were fortunate to live in a home that provided you with a path to college, even if you didn't appreciate it, and even went so far as to fund it for you initially. You think that living in a home with 3 others, and driving a beat-up car, is an example of living poor, and that taking night classes to bring yourself up really shows how you've pulled things together and turned around your life.

    I think it's great that you've done that. But you seem to forget how many people in our country don't have that opportunity.

    State and federally funded (or subsidized) education isn't just about giving a chance to people like you. It's about giving a chance to the people who couldn't even afford a car, who grow up in a home whose parents couldn't afford clothes, let alone a college education, or whose parents didn't have a college education to pass on to their children.

    Try spending a little more time with some of the poorest in Lodi before writing another article like this. Hop over to the Boys and Girls Club and talk to the kids there and their families, or Lodi House, and try to tell them that they don't deserve an education.

    And to claim that if they got one for free they would waste it like you did? Absurd.

     

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