Buis’ Bits: Money deal doesn’t make cents

I love Financial Aid.

I’m actually able to afford to get an education nowadays, and I can buy my books and digital camera for my photojournalism course and not have to worry about taking out a loan from my mom.

Wait, that was what I thought three months ago. That’s when the system worked just fine for four consecutive semesters and the only concern they had was when my dad’s income didn’t show up in the taxes after he died.

But now here I am, up Financial Aid Creek without a paddle and not in the Seth-Green-movie way either.

There was a time when California college students didn’t have to depend so heavily on this raft. Clark Kerr, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, introduced the idea of free tuition in 1960 to give more students a low-cost, high-quality education.

Enter Ronald Reagan as governor in 1966 and it’s time for him to save the day. A free education? How preposterous. Let’s pull out the rug from these freeloaders and start charging them. After all, the only thing worse than a dirty hippie is an educated dirty hippie with earnings potential.

It’s a funny thing about movie stars. They pull themselves up from their bootstraps and work hard to get from nothing to governor. Then they cut everything that could keep the mistake from happening again. It’s as though they realize after they take office that if they could make it, anyone could, and they panic.

The system apparently failed again with the introduction of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the helm of Cully-fornia.

Ah-nold went into full panic mode after his election by trying to balance the budget by slashing as many low-level positions as he possibly could without raising a fuss. After all, it makes more sense to put 20 little people out of work than one administrative suit and tie.

Also included in his brilliant idea, was to take Reagan’s idea to the nth degree. Thanks to him, I can never get a fix on how much I’m being charged on tuition. The fees on those little postcards the university mails out have a habit of changing before the semester begins.

I, however, do not have to worry too much, because all of that is deducted from my Financial Aid and it’s taken care of. I just have to fill out a mountain of forms and send in pounds of paperwork. This worked beautifully until this semester. Then “It” came.

This new and incredible system works without e-mail alerts or even a letter in the mail. All you had to do was login to the new portal that was still being weaned from life support and had very few features up. The ones that were not up had “Coming Soon!” with an exclamation point to make you feel as though they were trying extra hard to get it done quickly.

But every time you’d login for a few weeks, the same exclamation point would be goading you to return until you finally gave up. Then that new feature could be activated, leaving you none the wiser.

No, that’s not a conspiracy theory.

If you were lucky enough to have tricked the exclamation point, then you could check your “To do list.” I, however, lacked that luck until well into the summer.

Eventually after turning in another copy of the tax forms I had mailed, but were not received in person, I was told everything was in order. Just last week I was told I would see my money, hopefully in early October, but no guarantees.

It’s an amazing feeling to live off next to nothing. I’m just thrilled I won’t see a dime until around midterms. Why if I had that money now, I probably wouldn’t be able to be this sarcastic.

The irony is that by raising the costs of a public education, The Governator has pulled off two amazing feats for a conservative politician.

First, he has managed to tighten the money supply. Now parents that want to be able to send their kids to college will have to stash away even more money to pull it off. In other words, there will be less money for the consumer to pour into the free markets.

Thanks to my amazing C-plus-style economic kung fu, I can say that stockpiling money in accounts and keeping it out of the system isn’t a good thing. It tends to be a very depressing event.

Second, he has made even more red tape. As of Aug. 18, the Financial Aid Office is still working on July’s paperwork.

I’m all for people having jobs. That’s a good thing. I just hate to see things get warped around into a death spiral. Raise tuition, increase Financial Aid funding to offset and not look insensitive to lower-income voters, rinse and repeat.

I’m not saying make college free again. That leaves the door open for career college students who earn degrees in everything and do nothing.

It makes just as much sense to crank the fees up to increase funding while increasing Financial Aid to keep people from being left in the cold.

What I propose is simple. Reduce the fees and take those millions saved from Financial Aid and pour them into the system.

Here’s an even more amazing side effect. If you make college more affordable, you shrink the number of people dependent on Financial Aid and save even more money.

The most amazing part? By making it more affordable and opening up more space in Financial Aid, you can increase both the number of people able to attend and the cash flow coming into the system.

But what do I know? I’m just a college student who couldn’t pull a B in economics.

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