Recession 2.0: A Grad Student's Hard Times

Being in school means money is even tighter.


Veronica, a graduate student in Brooklyn, N.Y., responds to the question : How is the financial crisis affecting you?

I'm actually not sure how much I am affected by recession 2.0 and how much is my own bad judgment. I owe balances on my credit cards, but that was because the school failed to give me enough money to live on this summer, and I had to resort to living on credit. It's not a strategy I recommend in a good economy, let alone a so-so economy.

The three things that have impacted me the most are higher food prices, higher transportation prices and the hiring freeze in city and state governments. Just today, I was at the grocery store, where they were advertising "everyday low prices" on spaghetti. The "everyday low price" was $1.59. I remember when spaghetti was less than a dollar. Even with comparison shopping and buying only what's on sale, I am spending about $10 to $15 more a week than I was at this time last year. That's an extra $40 to $60 a month. That's $40 to $60 a month I can't use to pay down my debt.

As far as transportation costs are concerned, I buy the monthly MetroCard for New York City Transit, [and] what used to cost $76 a month is now $81 a month. That extra $5 a month is $5 less I can put into my savings account.

I attend school in New York City, but my home is in New Hampshire. Unless I take the bus (which is fine, except around holiday periods when I'd be on the bus for eight hours instead of four), I am looking at spending at least $120 dollars on round-trip train fare to Boston, plus the $20 round-trip bus fare to southern NH from Boston. Let's not even go into airfare.

I can tolerate the increase in food and transportation costs. It means that there won't be as much discretionary spending, and my contribution to the economy will only be through food and transportation. However, now that New York City is cutting its budget and most, if not all, the area's state schools are on hiring freezes, it will be that much harder for me to find a job in May 2009 when I graduate from my counseling program. I'll have to try and find a job at a private institution, if that's even feasible.

I have started to accept the fact that I will probably be moving back into my mom's house in southern New Hampshire. My odds of employment in New Hampshire are slightly better due to the fact it's not as saturated as New York City, but NH has experienced some budgetary problems in the past year and will more than likely be cutting spending. So I have nearly $100,000 in student loan debt, about 60 percent in low-interest federal loans and about 40 percent in private loans, with no expectation of finding a job. As it stands now, I've given myself until early May 2009 to find employment, and if there's nothing in my preferred field of choice, I may end up walking into an Air Force recruiter's office and spending some time there until the economy changes...that's if the Air Force is still hiring in May 2009.

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