Granted, $53,420 is a lot to pay for a year anywhere. On my current diet of ramen, coffee, and dried mangoes, that much bank could last me a long, LONG time. Sometimes (rarely… but sometimes) a part of me wants to walk into the student financial services office and ask if it would be possible to trade in my acquired education and skill-set for the comprehensive fee. Given the current state of the economy, these brief musings have actually transformed into fully developed hypotheticals. What if it were possible? What would the process be like? Would I actually be entitled to 50K a year?
The conclusion: possibly. Imagining the process is quite standard. Walk in to the lab, sign a consent form (somehow) approved by the IRB, put on the tech-savvy helmet that connects to your neurons, and watch as the numbers on the dollar sign meter increase as knowledge is drained from your cranium. Happy Halloween.
Yet imagining the rate of compensation is much more fascinating. I’m sure that the education and skill-set I gained at Middlebury adds up to above $200,000. After all, learning happens both inside the classroom and out. The wealth of experience here isn’t quantifiable. Yes, it’s true (and I believe it too). But let’s assume that our knowledge was only worth the yearly comprehensive fee, would it still be equitable to take the 50K? The answer I consistently arrive at is (un)fortunately, no. Why? Well, because Middlebury doles out a lot of $$ to students through a variety of processes in a variety of sectors.
So how to get the muhni? The simple answer is work. There are significant work opportunities both on and off campus. I currently work as a Senior Fellow in the Admissions Office (hence this blog post), a First Year Mentor and Peer Writing Tutor for the CTLR, and as an Overseas Student Correspondent for the South Korean Government (Yes! While at Middlebury!). I also worked as a research assistant to two faculty members – one during the academic year and one during my summer when I was back at home in South Korea. Often times the work I’m engaged in is something I would do just for the experience; getting paid is just a bonus. Moreover, finding these opportunities isn’t difficult: (http://www.middlebury.edu/offices/business/seo). The hours add up, and it’s nice to see a fat check in your mailbox every two weeks.
But there are alternate (perhaps, less-known) ways of taking back your tuition. Middlebury has funding for almost everything – provided you look hard enough. My personal favorite is research grants. Last summer, I received a $4000 research grant to conduct my senior thesis research in Seoul. It covered travel, accommodation, food, and research expenses. I also received funding to attend an academic conference in Las Vegas to present some of my original work. In addition to these opportunities, Middlebury has money for starting community initiatives, founding student organizations, and even funding to offset the cost of unpaid summer/winter internships.
There is money if you look. Taking back some of your tuition doesn’t have to be as drastic as the Halloween cranium drain. It’s nice to take a break from the work and look for people/ways that will give you money to do something you’re interested in. More often than not, you’ll find one. All right, back to the search: go/fellowships. If only I could convince one of the departments to hire me on a postbacc…