Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Lost My Scholarship Today

Today I received a letter from the university today saying that they would be unable to provide my scholarship for academic year 2007/2008. The letter said that my grades were not high enough to qualify for scholarship.

So I went to the financial aid office and explained that I received the letter, and asked if 90 and 100 were grades not high enough. They asked if I had failed any classes and I answered that I hadn't. They then asked me to write a letter explaining this and that I could appeal the academic board's decision - perhaps a mistake was made in reporting of the grades.

But even if my grades were lower, they must take into account that since I work 40-50 hours per week with no monthly salary guaranteed to me (if I don't sell, I literally don't eat), and that when times are tough and no sales are made I have no choice but to neglect my studies and work even harder. This is reasonable that if I can't maintain the payments for rent and bills then I can't study anyway, so obviously these basic needs are my first priority. I consider it an achievement that I even passed all my classes this year because the more I study the less I can work, and it is a huge struggle to maintain that delicate balance trying to learn and invest in my future and of course maintain good grades, yet be forced to take time away from study in order to keep a roof over my head and the bills paid.

Monday, December 10, 2007

RE: Introduction - by Poor University Student


I decided to establish this blog in order to publicize my personal situation as a poor university student in need of financial aid, as well as to solicit donations of financial help from any kind-hearted, thoughtful individuals who are able to help with financial support.

It is December 2007, and I am currently 33 years old. 11 years ago at the age of 22 I qualified for a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). However, officially I was never awarded this degree nor allowed access to my transcripts because my father and evil-stepmother (no joke) decided they would not pay the remaining tuition to the university (which for out-of-state students at that time was 20,000 USD /year), and neither would they pay the credit card bills that had accumulated for things they told me to pay for on condition of their reimbursement, and said that I "now have a degree" so it "should be no problem to find a good job", and that I was "own my own".

This was the straw that broke my back after 4 years of broken promises, lies, and betrayals. My father wanted me to go to his Alma Mater and study what he studied (engineering), and I did so wanting to get as far away as possible from California with this much-anticipated beginning of independence. But I actually hated it my first year at Michigan. Having grown up in California I did not know how drastically different the weather would be. I knew there would be snow, and I actually looked forward to snow, but the humid, muggy, and disgustingly hot gray days were horrible in Fall, Spring, and Summer. And I found it hard to adjust to the Mid-West mentality and way-of-life. I didn't particularly like sports so the weekly football games didn't interest me. I didn't like getting drunk so the pre-and-post-game drunk fraternity parties were not appealing whatsoever. I was lonely that first year with only one good friend made, and no girlfriends that first year. On top of this I hated the very rigid engineering curriculum of classes that I was forced to take that year with only 17 units total of elective classes allowed in 4 years degree study, so I transferred out of the engineering school and transferred to the school of Literature, Science, and the Arts. I discovered film and since I hated being at Michigan so much I wanted to come back to California to study.

When I came back that summer I told my father that I wanted to study film at USC School of Film, but he hated the idea, and he wouldn't allow it. All summer I made plans to transfer to
one of the finest film schools in the U.S., and two weeks before school started my father and I had a confrontation: he said that not only would he not pay for school at USC, but if I didn't go back to Michigan (his Alma Mater), he would kick me out on the streets with no education at 19 years old. What could I do? I was still a child at 19 with no valuable professional skills, dependent upon my father financially to provide my university education that he promised to do since childhood, and I believed his threats, so I reluctantly returned back to Michigan.

He was happy when I chose to attend his Alma Mater over the other universities that I had been accepted to, and he was even happier that I chose to study the same thing he had studied. I had received a FULL SCHOLARSHIP to U.C. Berkeley (one of the finest schools in California), but I had turned it down because I had wanted very much during high school to go to the VERY TOP Aerospace Engineering program in the country. My father also had very much wanted me to follow in his footsteps and encouraged me ("pushed me" is more accurate term) to attend Michigan, and he promised me that he would pay for it saying always when I tried to figure how I would pay for what-was-then the most expensive school for out-of-state students in the nation (because I was from California), saying always "Don't worry about it." He had promised me that he would pay for my education and I believed him (and wanted to believe him) because he was my father. Who would suspect that your own flesh-and-blood would screw you financially, ruin your credit, and destroy your life in USA? Not me, in any case.

When I had started my first year at Michigan my father had encouraged me to obtain as many credit cards as I could, saying that doing so would help to establish and build my good credit. He said that he would build my credit with these credit cards so that by the time I graduated I would have enough good credit to sign for a million dollar loan. Beginning in my second year he would tell me to put everything on my credit cards to start building the credit: books, food, airfare back-and-forth for Thanksgiving, Christmas, summer, etc. He didn't give me very much cash - instead he said put everything on my credit cards. But when bills came in, he wouldn't pay. I had to use my small savings to pay those first few bills in October, November, December. By the second semester which started in early January I had to get a job, despite my father's furious objections, to pay these credit card bills that he had promised to pay, yet wasn't. My father did not want me to get a job because he said my education would suffer (he was right), but yet he wouldn't pay for the bills of the credit cards that he told me to use, and I didn't want bad credit on my credit rating so I continued with that job for the next 2 and a half years.

In my third year it really got ridiculous. At this point I was paying for everything that could be charged to a credit card, at my father's insistence, with these credit cards, and the bills were just exponentially piling up in the total amount due because of interest (I was only able to make the minimum payments financing the huge interest charges while waiting for my father to pay off the entire amount as he continued to promise, "next month, next month". In the second semester of my third year I didn't register for classes because I had decided that I needed to work full-time in order to pay off these huge credit card bills that had accumulated. When I told my father that I didn't register for classes because it was clear he couldn't afford to pay for my education, and that I would take the semester off to help him out, he cut me off entirely saying I was entirely on my own and that if I wasn't attending classes there was no reason for him to pay the rent that he was paying beginning the third year when I moved into an apartment off-campus. The only thing he had paid for starting 4 months earlier he now threw the burden back on to me because I had decided I would help him out and work full-time to pay off the debt and return to classes in the Fall of 4th year.

I should have seen this all coming. I had grown up witnessing my father's shady dealings with shady people, his irresponsibility in timely payments, and intentional neglect, yet I wanted to believe that he wouldn't hurt his own son. Growing up, he was termed a "deadbeat dad" by the Legal System for failure to pay the measly 300 USD /month for **BOTH** me and my sister in child support. 150 USD /month **EACH**. It was clear that he didn't want to pay to my mother a penny since their divorce. Yet I had foolishly believed him when he said he would take care of paying for my college education if I chose to attend his Alma Mater. What can I say? It's easy to be a Monday-Morning-Quarterback 10 years later and 10 years wiser. But at the time I was a naive child who trusted his own father.

From my first year at Michigan my father was playing games with the tuition payments. I had received a bit of financial aid in grants and loans (in my name because my father had told me "not to worry" that he would take care of paying back all of the loans after graduation), but approximately 1/3 of the 20k USD /year tuition for out-of-state students I had to pay. My father would wait all semester and not respond to demands for payment, and then when I wasn't allowed to register for the next semester's classes at the start of classes he would call up the financial director and bullshit with some excuse and promise to pay the approx. 3,500 USD in a few days. I would then register for classes and of course he would not pay in a few days as he had promised, and the same thing would happen next year. He then would take the summer and not pay, and then was forced to pay for the entire year of 7k in order for me to register for classes the next Fall. This happened all four years while I was there.

So in my fourth year when I returned back to studying full-time, my father now agreed again to pay my rent. Working full-time the previous semester at 5 USD/hour having to pay not only the credit card debt, but also rent and living expenses (since he cut me off), I was only able to pay off very little of the credit card debt (but I had maintained timely payments so my credit rating was stilll excellent at this time). My father agreed to return to "paying for my education" for my fourth year of study (being one semester short of credits because of the previous semester of no classes and full-time work) only on condition that I gave up my job even part-time in order to concentrate full-time on studies. He said he would take care of the rent, the massive credit card debt, and all living expenses if I stopped work and depended only on him (obviously so that he could control me through financial pressure). So I agreed, but I didn't quit my job, and I even got a second job - all without telling him - because I anticipated I would see the same bullshit in the future.

I returned to class in September and had signed a lease with 3 others in a house. We each agreed that if the other didn't pay the responsibility would be on the 3 others. I am so sorry and feel so bad for my roomates that I didn't see this coming (keep reading). My father had taken control of the credit card payments (supposedly) , and he had changed the billing address to his home in California. I didn't see the bills because he was (supposedly) taking care of them. September, October, November, and then December I start getting telephone calls from Credit Card companies demanding payment for the past-due bills that were **NEVER** paid. My father simply defaulted on those credit cards I had used! He was ruining my good credit!

Evidently he didn't pay the rent either because by December the Landlord was coming to our house demanding payment. Well, my father took care of the rent for the previous three months and I got through the next year of studies with the same bullshit. He would run up debt and then pay months later. When I left the house in May to go back to California to prepare for my year studying abroad in Israel, it came to my attention **years** later that since I was no longer there in Michigan that my father felt that he didn't have to pay rent for this house. Evidently, months later one of the girls I lived with called my father up crying asking why he was doing this to her and the others making them pay for the rent he had committed to paying in the lease. He just hung up the phone on her. I feel so bad for them, and one day, when I earn the money, I will pay them back for my father's crimes of deception, fraud, and theft. They didn't deserve that.

So being unaware of the above, I left in July for Israel for a year of study and completed the final units of my Bachelor's Degree. But when I returned back to California the next June I was told by the university that I could not receive my degree or transcripts of my years there until the remaining debt of the tuition was paid - which totaled upwards of 10,000 USD. I called my father to see what was going on, and instead he just handed me the phone to my step-mother who says, "Well, we figure you have a degree now, you can get a good job, and that you are on your own financially". It was also then that I learned that my remaining good credit cards were now defaulted on and my credit rating in America ruined. Absolutely ruined. Needless to say, I realized then that all the student loans (totaling at least 50,000 USD) that I had taken out in my name that my father had explicitly said he would take care of payments after graduation would not be paid back. My father and step-mother had defaulted on absolutely everything, leaving me in debt more than 10k USD to the University directly, 50k+ USD to the U.S. and State Governments in Student Loans, and more than 20k USD in debt to Credit Card companies. I was now more than 80k USD in debt, and my credit rating and life and future were ruined in America. This was the straw that broke my back, and I was shocked and devastated because I had trusted my father, and he had let me down so badly. I never wanted to see or hear from him again. I haven't spoken to him now in more than 11 years.

I couldn't get a good job with my degree because officially I didn't have a degree. I couldn't apply to graduate school because of no degree and no transcripts to prove I had studied and earned a Bachelor's degree. I stayed with my aunt that summer, and decided I was going to move back to Israel to join the Israeli Army. In Israel life was simpler, the people were genuine and kind, and my credit rating, life, and future weren't destroyed. I needed a job to earn some money to pay for the trip back to Israel and I remember working as a telemarketer, and in a Costco, doing crappy jobs - but these were go-nowhere jobs that didn't pay very much more than what I was making in college: 5 USD /hour. At this time in 1997 the internet was just taking off, and I saw opportunities in this field. I read a book on HTML and quickly got a job as a web site developer because of the demand for web sites making 20 USD /hour in 1997. This was good money back then, and in just a couple of months I had enough money to pay for my flight and ship all of my things back to Israel. I landed with only 300 USD in my pocket, but I trusted GOD to provide so I didn't worry.

I joined the Israeli Army for a year, and when I got out the internet was really "exploding" at this time and the demand for web site developers was enormous. I was able to command a salary of 95 USD /hour as a web site developer. I did this for about 2 years until things started slowing down when the tech-bubble burst in 2001 and the world entered a deep recession. I was laid-off because there was no longer a need for web site developers, and work was nowhere to be found. No one was hiring. The world was in serious recession between 2001-2004, and I did a few odd jobs here and there if they were available: web site work, tutoring, proctoring for high-school tests, construction, gardening, cleaning was tough to survive those few years, and during this time I have gone through more than a few periods of extended hunger and total lack (obviously I am all alone and can't ask my father for help - my only help is GOD).

In 2005 I found employment in a local bakery and worked there for 14 months. During this time of back-breaking work literally being enslaved for 12-15 hours per day for 1,100 USD /month I decided that I must return back to university to continue my education because with education opportunities are multiplied, yet poverty perpetuates itself, is grinding down to the bone and reduces opportunity to better oneself's circumstances in life.

In October 2006 I returned to university here in Jerusalem, yet not without difficulty. I couldn't apply for a Master's Degree program because I didn't "officially" have a Bachelor's Degree or transcripts of my university grades in my possession. So before I could continue in a Master's Degree program I had to start over again from the beginning and obtain a second Bachelor's Degree. By the grace of GOD I was able to provide my high school transcripts, my SAT score of 1380, and a letter from the University of Michigan stating they could not release either degree or transcripts until the debt to them was paid off, and confirmed that I had studied there for 4 years towards a Linguistics degree. This was enough to be accepted to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to a dual-major degree Bachelor's program in Archaeology and Middle Eastern Studies (i.e. Arabic Language, Politics, History, Religion, Social Studies, etc.). I am also relearning Spanish (which I spoke fluently in high school), French (which I spoke decently well at the University of Michigan), and also now Portuguese. Qualifying for a B.A. in Linguistics actually makes my current study of language very easy. I very much enjoy the study of foreign languages and believe that long-term study of these languages will make me an asset in whatever field-of-work I choose to go into. The only reason I am not also studying Mandarin Chinese this year is because it doesn't fit in my class schedule - else I would very happily also study this language. I hope next year I can begin long-term study of this language.

There's nothing like "real-life" to make you really appreciate the value of education. Educated citizens are traditionally better off financially and able to provide better lives for their children. The better the education provided and obtained, the easier it is for our children to pursue higher education for longer periods, and the better tomorrow will be. This has been traditional Jewish Wisdom practiced in America and elsewhere for generations. Good education makes possible wealth and financial security, and wealth makes possible good education. Yet poverty is grinding down to the bone, reduces opportunity, and perpetuates a vicious cycle of cross-generational poverty and its natural repercussions of crime, social disorder, and other negative ramifications.

Thank GOD, the university has waived my tuition fees for 2006-2007, and I am still waiting for decision regarding this year's tuition in 2007-2008. However, it is still a huge struggle for me to study while working full-time to keep a roof over my head, keep bills paid, put food on the table, buy books, and other necessary expenditures for university. The university requires attendance for classes, which means I must spend less time working trying to pay the bills. The more time I spend studying, the less time I can spend working. And since I don't earn a monthly salary, earning only if I sell, the result is that if I don't sell, I literally don't eat - the last time being just a few weeks ago, and in October I didn't eat for 5 days (drinking only water). I have turned off the refrigerator 4 times since this period in October because why waste money on electricity keeping it cool when there is nothing in it to cool? And when this occurs I have no choice but to neglect my studies, work harder to sell, and my education suffers.

If anyone can help, even the smallest amounts will be very much appreciated. You can donate to my future, and to my children's future with financial aid support via PayPal using the link at right, or you can contact me via e-mail and I will give you my bank account details.

Thank you very much in advance, and may GOD bless you.

Best regards,

Poor University Student.