On Their Own: How financially independent students manage life at Chapman

On Their Own: How financially independent students manage life at Chapman

Her freshman year, sophomore Rachel Sison was rushed to the emergency room for potentially deadly stomach issues, but when she got there, she found out she couldn’t afford the copay. Sison, who is financially independent, said it felt like hitting rock bottom.

Sison at her place of work | Photo by DEDEE DROEGE

“I was sitting in my hospital bed, throwing up, and I looked at my phone,” the environmental science and policy major said. “I only had $14 in my bank account.”

Sison now works 40 hours a week at Bruxie, and said she is proud to be able to pay her monthly tuition, rent, food and sorority dues on top of other living expenses.

More than 60% of students aged 19-22 receive money from their parents, according to The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. On average, these students received $7,500 annually to help with tuition, rent and transportation. Still, Chapman has a community of young adults that pay for most, if not all, of their rent, tuition, food and living expenses.

Chapman’s tuition is around $40,000 a year, and the average rent in Orange is around $880/month for a room. As of Spring 2017, about 82 percent of Chapman student received some form of financial aid, whether that be merit or need based. But with tuition prices exceeding $50,000, the price tag is still nerve-wracking.

Junior screenwriting major Jordan Cahill works 30 hours a week to make ends meet while managing a full course load. Her father passed away during her junior year of high school, and with six siblings, she knew financial support was not an option when she transitioned to college.

“I have stress dreams about money. My teeth fall out in my dreams because I’m poor,” she said.

Cahill works close to full time while being a full-time Dodge student | Photo courtesy JORDAN CAHILL

“It’s a never ending process. I’ll be fine for a few days, then something will come up that I have to pay for. I get really, really frustrated,” Cahill said.

Cahill said budgeting every purchase is a normal part of life for her. For students who are on their own, paying their way through school can be emotionally taxing and disheartening. Needs as basic as buying food and housing are a constant source of stress, she said.Car issues and health problems are just a few of a long list of unforeseeable expenses.

It’s difficult for her to feel at home among the student body, because others don’t have to adhere to the same responsibilities, Cahil said.

Carter Garfinkel, a freshman screenwriting major lives in a friend’s garage to secure a low rent, and relies on savings from his summer job for food. He said he and his friends care more about their relationship with each other than what they can or can’t spend money on.

“If you’re lucky enough to be in a situation where you don’t have to worry, that’s great. But I’ve realized that I don’t need a lot of the stuff I thought I might to have a fun college experience,” Garfinkel said.

Similarly, sophomore film production major Minna Thrall focusses on all the positives in her life even though she works three jobs to keep up. 

“It’s a now problem – it’s not a forever problem. I consider myself to be a pretty optimistic person,” Thrall said.

Although she works tirelessly to support her life at Chapman, Thrall said she doesn’t look down on students with financial safety nets.

Sison also said that just because other students might be luckier financially, that doesn’t mean life is easy for them. Regardless, she’s learned to find happiness without material things.

“I try my best not to judge people based on whatever financial situation they were born into. Everybody has their own battles, and if somebody has all the money in the world it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the happiest person in the world,” Sison said.


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