Twenty-five Dollars

imageTwenty-five dollars doesn’t sound like enough to change a life, but for me it was.  I was the second of five children and desperately wanted to go to college.  Fully understanding my family’s financial situation, I knew they couldn’t help me.  My older sister was in her fourth year, an exemplary student and model of decorum, she’d snagged a job as a residence counselor.  Basically, she was responsible for taking names and turning in those who didn’t toe the straight and narrow in the dormitory.  It must have been a miserable job, but it paid more than anything else, so she took it.  She was going to school on student loans as I planned to,  but she’d been able to land a summer job in the office where my dad worked, so she’d been able to save up a little nest egg to get started in college.

My typing skills were a joke.  If I’d had to support myself by my office skills, I’d have starved long ago.  We lived way out of town, about twenty miles past Podunk.  There were no jobs to be had except the one I’d had my whole life, free farm labor.  I filled out my loan application and received my approval.  I’d be going to college!  There was just one little problem.  I had to return my admission packet with a check for twenty-five dollars!  It might as well have been a thousand.  I’d never had twenty-five dollars in my life.  Mother saw how upset I was when I got the letter, beating me to the punch.  “We don’t have twenty-five dollars.  That’s half what I spend a week on groceries.”  I’d seen Mother pinch pennies all my life.  I knew you couldn’t get blood out of a turnip.

Phyllis came home from college that weekend, wanting to know if I’d mailed my application.  “I can’t.  I don’t have twenty-five dollars.”

“I’ll give you the money.”  She wrote me a check then and there.  I’ve never been so relieved in my life.  In a few short weeks, I was headed joyously off to college, without a nickel in my pocket, but I’ve never been happier.  At registration, my loan was waiting for me.  It paid my tuition, the first six weeks of my dorm fees and left about fifty dollars for books.  Fifty dollars didn’t buy many books, so I borrowed a couple, and checked out a couple from the library, just keeping them renewed the whole semester.  My student job barely covered my dorm fees, so I had no pocket money all year, but it was fine.  I was in college and that was all that mattered.  I am forever grateful to Phyllis for helping me out.  I graduated three years later with a Bachelor’s in English and eighteen hundred dollars in student loan debt.

21 thoughts on “Twenty-five Dollars

  1. What an admirable story. I come form a lucky generation in the UK. Our university education was paid for and we all received a grant towards living expenses and if your parents had no money you got a full living grant. Today’s youngsters end up with mountains of debt and no sleep as they work, like you, while studying.


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