Taking Time Off: Post-Fee Hikes

In the current economy and the current UC fiscal situation, taking time off can seem like an attractive idea. Students can save money for paying tuition, get a paycheck from a job (if one is available), boost their resumes and take a look at the working world.

It is no secret that admissions officers at graduate schools and employers like to see students with real-world experience and taking time off school can be a good opportunity to get it. Many students straight out of college have never worked a job for longer than a summer, leading a candidate who has taken a semester or two off for work to appear more experienced.

Moreover, a student who has taken time off has a story to tell about their education – one that can be a testament to their dedication and fiscal responsibility.

But for students who have considered dropping out of school to work or perhaps have already taken time off to earn more money for school, should realize the ramifications of their decision.

According to the UCI’s office of admissions, following the protocol, withdrawing for a semester and returning for readmission can be done if planned correctly. Students that withdraw in the middle of a quarter have a more difficult time getting refunds, because the later it is, the less of a refund they receive. Students are also automatically withdrawn if they do not pay their tuition fees.

The trickier part is readmission. Students must be approved for readmission by their department or school. This process can be easier if counselors make a note on the student’s record about his or her fiscal situation and plan to earn money and return at a specified time.

Being in good academic standing will also work to the student’s advantage, since students with good grades appear to be serious about their education.

At the same time, taking time off from school can be a major risk. Students don’t know what tuition will be like in the future. Students might be facing an even more expensive tuition a year from now.

“Fees are just going to keep [increasing],” Jon Shubin, a second-year aerospace engineering major who uses financial aid, said. “If I take time off I’m just going to come back. I might as well get it done now so I can just pay my fees off.”

Shubin said that the increase in fees did not hurt him financially, but actually helped his aid situation.

“What they did was change $500 of your loan money to financial aid money this past quarter so it actually worked to my benefit,” Shubin said.

However, even with the extra help due to the fee increase this past quarter, he got much more financial aid last year.

“You just get less financial aid as you go through college,” Shubin said. “I took out maybe $2,000 dollars last year and this year $11,000.”

People also fear the rut, when one lands a job that makes more money than they earned in their summer stints waiting tables, because they get comfortable and don’t want to leave it.

One UC Irvine second year who asked to remain anonymous has been forced to drop out of school due to the recent fee hikes.

She said that the fee increases, combined with the expenses necessary to buy textbooks and pay for food and rent, have made it impossible for her to continue her UC education. This student is too young to qualify for aid on her own, and her parents, although their income disqualifies her for financial aid, also do not support her financially. Because she is no longer a UCI student, she has also been forced to move out of her on-campus dorm room and is stuck looking for a place to live.

While getting one’s education is a noble and respectable goal, the life of a student is inherently self-centered; in order to succeed they must focus their lives around their schoolwork and activities. While this isn’t impossible to do with kids and a family, it gets certainly more difficult.

“I feel that the UC system needs to fix this budget,” Shubin said. “I would rather be able to go to college than go to Jamba Juice on campus or to ASUCI movie nights. It just seems that they are spending money on the wrong things when there are so many students struggling financially.”