Sophomore Charles Ely had planned to study abroad next year. Until recently, however, it seemed unlikely that he would even get to study at Knox.
Ely’s mother originally promised to pay for a certain amount of his tuition as long as he could cover the rest with scholarships and loans. He did, and he came to Knox in the fall of 2008.
Unfortunately, 2008 was also when the U.S. unemployment rate began to climb sharply, increasing by as much as 3 percent in just a few months. Soon, Ely’s mother, like many other people across the country, was faced with the prospect of losing her job.
“[She] was working for a failing company,” said Ely. “Now she has to start all over.”
Ely was able to return to Knox for his sophomore year, even though it was a stretch for his parents financially. Paying for a Knox education for a third year, however, was beyond his family’s means. Ely began to look at other schools closer to his hometown in Florida. He applied to two where in-state tuition was only a few thousand dollars a year.
Despite his family’s financial situation, Ely was very reluctant to leave Knox behind.
“I didn’t want to go to a school with 40,000 people or that was 15 minutes from my house,” Ely said. “The cost doesn’t make up for Knox’s individuality.”
Thankfully, Ely’s situation worked out so that he could attend Knox for another year. His mother agreed to co-sign on additional loans just within the past week.
While Ely is thrilled to be able to stay at Knox, he acknowledges that doing so has a price.
“I’ll probably be $20,000 to $30,000 more in debt than I would’ve been otherwise,” he said.
Ely has been busy applying for scholarships to hopefully help decrease his debt.
“I should be more freaked out [about the debt] than I am,” he said. “But [staying at Knox] feels worth the debt right now.”
Not all students whose families have been affected by rising unemployment have been as fortunate as Ely. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 70 percent of American high schools reported that more students were forced to abandon their dream colleges in 2008 due to costs. In difficult economic times, financial aid becomes even more important, and it is the schools that offer merit and need-based scholarships who will attract more students.
“Most people I’ve talked to chose Knox because of financial aid,” said Ely. “We’re all in the same boat.”
As for studying abroad, Ely no longer sees that in his future.
“I’m going to Wales over spring break with the Dylan Thomas course,” he said. “That’ll probably be my study abroad.”