Town Square

Financial Aid: There wasn't allows financial help; my grandpa mowed the college lawn

Original post made by Daniel Morizono, San Ramon Valley High School, on Jan 17, 2010

Whether it is from a two-year junior college or a four-year university, every education has a price tag. How exactly to finance a post-secondary education in these difficult economic times should be a question at the forefront of all students’ minds. Even with the frenzy of college applications, the financial aspect of an education should be commensurate to simply gaining admission to college in the first place.

Last week it was announced that the University of California system received a record 134,029 applicants for fall 2010 enrollment. With tuition now over five figures and budget cuts made throughout the system, a UC education is becoming less and less accessible for students and their families. In addition, state schools and community colleges have been forced to cut back on spending and raise tuition. Private schools have also witnessed a decline in charitable donations and have been impacted by the general recessionary environment.

Loans, grants, work-study and scholarships: There are many options available to help finance a college education. As a student you should be researching these options alongside your parents. Don’t know the difference between a "subsidized loan" and an "unsubsidized loan"? The FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE (see 1 below)? ACG grants and National SMART grants (2)? Look these up online. Pay a visit to your school’s career center. Many schools have financial aid nights that you and your parents can attend together. Funds, especially federal funds, do eventually run out. The sooner you familiarize yourself with the financial aid language the better.

1. Both are government loans, however subsidized loans do not accrue interest until after you graduate, while unsubsidized loans accrue interest immediately.

2. Academic Competitiveness Grants are $750-1,300 grants you can obtain if you are enrolled in your first or second year of undergraduate study. The National SMART grant is an up to $4,000 grant for undergrads who are enrolled in their third or fourth year of study in an eligible major.

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While I am in the process of applying for financial aid, my grandpa’s own experience comes to mind. It’s a story he’s told me many times before, and it’s story I won’t forget.

To finance his education at a junior college in Maui in 1956, my grandpa arranged to mow the campus lawn in exchange for full payment of his tuition. He couldn’t afford to attend a four-year university on the mainland until he was well into his 30s and his first child was born.

A few years ago, my family visited that former school in Maui. I was struck by how the sloping grounds just stretched on and on in all directions for nearly an acre. It must have been a difficult task for him to mow that lawn every week. It wasn’t his only responsibility, either. On top of cutting grass he worked in the banana fields and helped my great-grandparents support a family with 12 children. But the possibility of a college education made the pushing worthwhile.

I think of my grandpa because I don’t know if I would mow the lawn of Pomona or George Washington or Columbia University. Some determined students might. But most students, especially the ones around here, would hesitate to trim the blades of grass at even our dream-schools.

I don’t think this is because my generation is particularly lazy. We take five-hour exams on Saturday mornings. We pull all-nighters to finish history essays. We volunteer at hospitals, play multiple varsity sports, and take violin lessons. We do keep busy.

There is nothing even wrong with mowing the lawn. Functionally, it’s a very important service to the school. Campus beautification, the job could be called. So what’s the issue? Is it embarrassing to do so? Is it a violation of a social norm? What norm, what value? If we would pick the fruits of our education without all the hard labor, we should ask ourselves, "Do we really want to go to college? Do we even deserve to go to college?"

My situation today is far different from my grandpa’s situation, half a century ago. I have to take the SAT as a teen. He had to work in the fields as a teen. I know who had it harder. But every time I hear his story it never fails to put my college application process in perspective, especially with regards to financial aid. Money is green, I tell myself - just like the color of the grass.


The Teen Wire provides a perspective on today's youth in the face of a changing world. Daniel Morizono, a senior at San Ramon Valley High School, news editor of the Wolfprint, and managing editor of the SRVHS International Studies Academy can be contacted at


This is the last in a six-week series of blogs about applying to college by admission advisor Elizabeth LaScala and Teen Wire high school senior Daniel Morizono - showing both sides of the coin, so to speak. Topics covered everything from pressures to apply early, to parental involvement, to dealing with acceptance, rejection and the hated wait-list option.


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Posted by Ralph N. Shirlet
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2010 at 8:27 am

Ralph N. Shirlet is a registered user.

Dear Dolores,

Let us thank Daniel for his thoughtful presentation of educational financing. His grandfather's experience was quite common in the 1950's to 1970's and many students worked full-time and went to school part-time. Thirteen years after graduating for high school I had >200 units of undergraduate and graduate work, two degrees, and nearly 20 years working experience.

As Daniel looks further at working during university studies, he might take a moment to comment on the practical relationship of education and work. In my experience, studying business, economics and technology was made easier by the practical realities of commercial employment. Upon graduation, my resume allowed me a higher level of professional job than my fellow (younger) graduates.

More importantly, Daniel should seek additional authors that can advise new university students on job searches and building a resume now as part of obtaining a job to support educational studies.