I’m not ashamed, nor am I proud, of my financial situation. It is what it is. I am proud of my parents and my grandparents and my Aunt Linda for establishing a business from nothing, for working and expanding the business, for treating employees fairly, and for growing that business into a profitable and substantial enterprise.

I am not ashamed, nor am I proud, of my own financial situation. I did little to earn it, but, like any other child of parents, I inherit my parents successes and failures. I inherit the ability to attend a semi-prestigious east-coast school instead of a prestigious west-coast school at half the price. That is my inheritance.

I am not ashamed, nor am I proud, of my current college situation. I was accepted to University of California Berkeley, a prestigious and highly recognized, and also very large and very anonymous, California school. Being a California resident, I receive discounted tuition to any UC or CalState school. The system on which Berkeley works includes credit for classes I have taken over the summer and AP courses I have completed. It is likely that I would get out of Berkeley with my BA degree in three years. The cost would be, all expenses included, approximately US$20,000 a year, for a total of $60,000. Brandeis University is a small suburban school in Waltham, Mass. It is less well-known, it is more unique, it has a similar activist history to Berkeley. Brandeis is private and offers few non-federal, non-need-based scholarships. My time at Brandeis costs approximately US$35,000 a year. I will spend four whole years here, exploring, learning, growing, with a final price tag of about $140,000.

I am ashamed of the price disparity, and here is why. I pay taxes, as does everyone else in California. Those taxes go to support one of the finest systems of higher education in the world. In exchange for this, I am given discounted tuition. I could go to Berkeley instead of Brandeis, and I would end my first phase of college with an extra $80,000 that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Eighty thousand dollars. I have no real concept of what this figure means, except that it is a lot. It is enough to pay for a few years of law school, or a fine motor vehicle, or a good down-payment on a house, or a wonderful contribution to the United Way.

I am ashamed, because to be ashamed means to feel guilt and remorse, and although I have not done anything wrong, these are things I feel. I think these feelings are justified. So now my question is how to deal with them. Not how to forget them, or overcome them, but how to deal with them. Because I have been given great opportunities, better than I probably deserve, and I am still trying to figure out why.

One reply on “$80,000”

  1. Dan, you are a very smart and introspective person, and I congratulate you for your ability to frame issues and analyze them. That said, your first assumption about finishing at Cal (Berkeley) in three years is nigh impossible. Unlike Brandeis, you would have great difficulty obtaining all of your desired classes when you wanted them. Take it from a UCLA grad.

    Second, your college money is just that. Use it. Enjoy it. As long as we and your grandparents could afford it, we would not deny you the opportunity to obtain the best education for you. If Brandeis is the right place, right now, then so be it.

    Of course, we both know you have never been into cars, and United Way? They spend way too much money on administration.

    You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Your only obligation, as far as I am concerned is to yourself. To make the most of your college years, academically and socially. To be the best that you can be and to do the best that you can do. That is enough.

    Love. Dad

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