By Sarah Breckon ’14
Between the current economic depression and rising tuition costs many Pacific Lutheran University students and their families often find themselves struggling to pay for a college education. Cori Olson and her family are no exception.
September marked Olson’s first semester at PLU. A communication major seeking a career in broadcast journalism, she transferred from Eastern Washington University with junior standing. With the semester only half over, she’s already beginning to question her choice of attending PLU.
Despite receiving a scholarship covering a third of her tuition and a financial aid contribution, Olson still struggles to cover costs. In an attempt to cut down her tuition costs even further, Olson chose not to purchase a Lute meal plan and lives with her parents in Eatonville, Wash. However, even after commuting to campus five times a week, Olson still spends hundreds of dollars in gas each month and hours in transit.
Olson’s mother, Marcey, said “The transition has been good for her. It wasn’t what she expected, she ran into several roadblocks.”
Even with roadblocks, Olson remains positive. “She’s been impressed with her professors and the quality of education at PLU,” her mother said. “She’s excited to be there.”
With Olson’s enrollment at PLU, her entire family learned to adjust their spending patterns. While she and her family identify as solidly middle class, family vacations and frivolous spending are a thing of the past.
“The only thing I spend my money on now is gas,” said Olson. “It’s a struggle. My parents can’t help me out anymore. I can’t even afford text books.”
Stories like Olson’s are becoming more familiar across the country. The middle class is struggling to make ends meet, and a post-high school education is increasingly harder to obtain. For many, a private university like PLU is simply out of the question.
According to the PLU Financial Aid office, more than 97 percent of undergraduate students benefit from some form of financial assistance, which includes scholarships, grants, federal and private loans, and student employment.
For Olson, the future remains unclear.
“If I stay at PLU, it’ll take my entire life to pay off my student debt,” she said. If unable to find a way to pay for tuition, Olson will be forced to transfer back to EWU without the credits she needs for her intended major. Leaving PLU will mean she will be unable to obtain a degree in broadcast journalism, which Olson described as her “lifelong dream.” However, she won’t be without the support of her family. “We’ll always be here for her,” said her mother. “She needs to follow her dreams the best she can and we’ll support her.”