Opinion | Mar. 5 4:36 pm EST

Broker than a printer in Lerner

General Studies students aren’t featured in a Columbia College-centric student life—even at Spectator, which I guess makes me the token GS blogger. GS students bring a lot to the CU table: a ton of life experience and backstories full of achievement and judiciousness which are manifested through the friction of real world experience and/or growing older. However, after several attempts to tap some of these stories for Spec, I was halted by one overarching narrative for GS students—a substantial gap between financial aid and tuition.

GS’s Dean Peter J. Awn is famous for his absolutely wonderful open letters. In his most recent one, Dean Awn wrote that GS will no longer award the Bachelor of Science degree. The decision marks GS’s fully and completely integrated liberal arts program in an effort to academically conform to CC.

CC and GS retain a reasonable separation of administration, admissions, and financial aid offices.The last remnant of GS’s days as a lesser CC is the separation of endowment. Much as I admire Dean Awn for throwing GSers a bone of academic validation, how about a open letter celebrating a merger of CC, SEAS, and GS’s endowments? No? Well, how about an explanation as to why this disparity still exists? To be fair, Dean Awn has addressed this over and over again. However, I would bet that until extra aid is raised/found/allocated or institutional loans are made available to GS students, this line of questioning is going to continue as long as it still prevents GSers from getting a degree.

meme-from-iphonetextgenerator (1) Last spring the Blue and White’s Anna Bahr wrote  a great piece on this disparity. A commenter on  Bahr’s piece wrote, “Don’t you GSers get it!  Columbia uses GS just as a way to make money.” I’m not convinced that GS is simply a money-maker for the university.

A substantial financial aid shortfall is a concern  for many—if not the majority*—of GS students,  including myself. I don’t feel guilty nor vulnerable—just left out. Moreover, I feel a sense of  optionless urgency to find funding for next  semester. My GS story is one of adversity, loss of  self and redemption, but the most important part of  that story is that it isn’t over, hopefully. This is my  first semester here at Columbia, and unless $20,000 falls  out of the sky, it will most likely be my last. Prior to moving to NYC in August, I was on welfare (TANF, SNAP), lived in a project building, and received welfare benefits. If possible, I would sign  up for as many loans as it took, and as long as  it meant, to finish my degree. However, with my history and no cosigner, there isn’t a shot in hell I’d be approved for a private student loan. At least, not for the next decade or so…And I’m not the only person in this position.

We are the (not so) few, we are the stubborn, we are the students who understand what the value of  a Columbia education is in today’s job market. We are the CUSWNCWADHAC (aka CU Students  With No (or bad) Credit Who Also Don’t Have a  Cosigner). We believe just because we are  CUSWNCWADHAC, doesn’t mean we should be  barred from an Ivy League education.

This piece isn’t a potshot at those “most trust- funded among us,” nor anyone who receives a full  ride, no matter who your benefactor is. In life, some get the carrot and others, well…they get  beaten and tricked with the stick. Despite feeling  somewhat tricked, I would still gleefully take a  beating and you can keep the carrot. All I’m interested in are a cap, gown, and that piece of  paper that says THE TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA  UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK at the  top.




  1. Anonymous • March 5, 2014 at 5:31 pm • Reply

    Nominating the author for a GS leadership award.

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  2. Anonymous • March 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm • Reply

    CC is the oldest and most heavily endowed school in the university. The majority of the facilities used by all schools and almost all dorms were built by CC alums. The largest donors to the university are CC alums including John Kruge’s 600 million dollar donation to CC financial aid. GS is the newest school in the university. Lewiston Hall was formerly a CC building. GS has had no major benefactors or donors or buildings. CC has dorms, because alums built them, CC had sports facilities, because alums but them, CC has huge financial aid, because alums donate. Awn should be out soliciting donors rather than having his students complain and want to be more like CC.

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  3. CC grad • March 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm • Reply

    As a longstanding contributor to the College, I will simply note that my contributions are earmarked for the College. If that that ceases to be the case, then I will simply stop making contributions. GS is supposed to be a non-traditional school for non-traditional students. It should look to its own alumni base for support and not to alumni of the College.

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  4. Chris Morris - Author of this piece • March 5, 2014 at 8:43 pm • Reply

    I never comment on my writing once it’s published. I like to think of comment sections as a place for readers to discuss what is written. I wrote what I needed to write and I stand by my words. I must make an exception to this rule so I can clarify; Dean Awn in no way compelled me to write this piece or anything else for that matter. I met the man only once at a GS orientation event over summer 2013.
    I do admire the sense of loyalty and fraternity CCers and CC Alum feel for their (subdivision of our) University. However, in the year 2014, the financial aid/tuition disparity, at best, is divisive, arbitrary and exclusionary. In some cases this disparity reinforces a malignant sense of entitlement and elitism in CC students. My strong language isn’t meant to further any more divisiveness. Moving forward I hope to see (or, at least, hear about) a more united CU, if not by endowment then at least in spirit… Thank You

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  5. majorie1976 • March 6, 2014 at 2:19 am • Reply

    I do not agree: http://shoes.eurosko-group.com/archives/446

    Sincerely, Majorie

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  6. thomas • March 6, 2014 at 10:09 am • Reply

    Frankly, I think GS should be eliminated entirely. If Columbia is committed to providing non-traditional students an education they should look for the same non-traditional criteria in admissions for the college and the engineering school. No more debates about double standards or backdoors or anything like that. Just a commitment from Columbia to finding students with potential from other backgrounds and actually giving them the same experience/money/support as the other colleges.

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