March 2, 2010

Some take walk less traveled, graduate early, and pocket savings

Exhaustion from years of exams and problem sets, and the prospect of significant savings, is causing some U of C students to graduate early or take parts of their fourth years off.

Third-year Savithry Namboodiripad did not plan to graduate in three years, but decided it was the best financial option when she realized she could. “During my first year my mom died all of a sudden and they never changed our financial aid, so it became more expensive for me to go here,” said Namboodiripad. “It will be a lot cheaper for me to not take another year.”

Some fourth-years only made the decision to stop taking classes early this year. “I’m done with all my requirements and my mom said: ‘That’s $13,000,’” said fourth-year Kate Dries who, like all fourth-years interviewed, will take spring quarter off and walk in June. “If there was a last class I was dying to take, she’d let me [but] this seems like the most unselfish thing to do.”

Fourth-year Liz Scoggin will be using money that would have been spent on spring quarter. “All the money I saved goes to Law School, which I’m paying for,” she said.

Other students cited a desire to work as their motivation graduating early. “I work for [Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign] and they asked me to start full-time as soon as I could,” said fourth-year Kate Berner. “I was planning to be a part-time student [Spring quarter] and just take interesting and fun classes, but then the job came up.”

Berner said saved tuition money gave her extra incentive to take the time off.

Hila Mehr (A.B. ‘09) graduated because she didn’t come up with a thesis that caught her interest. “Last year I asked myself, do I really want to write a BA? I didn’t have enough credits to graduate last June, but I had [enough] for this December. There were no professorss I wanted to work on a BA with. Why waste $30,000 when I can be done?” Mehr recently began an internship with Representative Lee Terry’s (R-NE) office.

Students regretted missing out on some classes, though many were more relieved at being finished with homework and moving on to their careers.

“If someone wrote me a check for $50,000 and said, ‘Stick around for another year,’ I would by all means take them up on that offer,” said third-year Mark Redmond, who will graduate this year to join the Phoenix, AZ Teach for America corps, where he hopes to teach high school biology.

“Sometimes I do think about, ‘Well it would have been nice if I could afford to stay here for longer,” said Namboodiripad, who will be working in a research lab where she volunteered during College. “[But] doing research is nice—it will be nice to be doing that instead of doing homework.”

Dries and Scoggin both said they might sit in on classes during the spring, though both hope to find a job or an internship. “If I’m here, I might as well take advantage of it. It could be my last chance,” Dries said.