Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Friday, September 11, 2015

It's Always About Money- How unexpected expenses affect PhD life

The last few months, finishing my PhD, worried about money and the future, how my socio-economic class, upbringing, and lack of money has affected my life and scholarship is constantly on my mind.

Yesterday I had an anecdote that coalesced all of that for me.

Yesterday I received an email from UNM Parking and Transportation that the parking spot I was on the waitlist for came through and I had until the 18th to come pay for it and pick it up.

The last two years I have paid $500 each year for a pass to park in the parking structure that is five minutes from campus and my classes. I paid the extra money for a couple of reasons. The first is that I was often scheduled to be on campus all day and Nehi has a 7-8 hour crate limit. So I couldn't park in the South lot which required waiting for a bus, or walking late at night in the dark (UNM has severe campus security issues). While some grad students get privileged parking, such as MD and physics students, English PhD students are not in that class.

But this year, despite the fact that I had it written in my planner, I was trying to finish my first draft of my my dissertation and logged into the parking website three hours after Yale passes went online. And they were sold out. So I waitlisted myself on three separate parking lots, and since classes started four years ago I have had to pay hourly when I'm on campus. It's $2/hour, and I'm generally on campus for six hours, so that's $12 per day, twice a week, so $24 dollars a week, times four weeks of class, plus the week of prep, plus the two weeks of the job market class that was three hours five days a week. That means I've paid roughly $180 the past six weeks in order to do my job. The parking pass I bought yesterday that is for the entire year, and is for the dirt lot next to the parking structure was $235.

I willing paid for it. One, because it will be cheaper than the hourly by the end of the year. But the other reasons had to do with the ways in which this affected my teaching and scholarship.
  • I was rushing out of class at the end of the night, not necessarily being available to students because I couldn't afford another 30 minutes of parking, or the ticket if I didn't add time.
  • I was not necessarily going to see professors I needed to because I wasn't sure I could afford the parking.
  • I was not spending time at the library because again, couldn't afford the time.
  • I was reshuffling errands on campus, library time, doctor's appointments at student health around whether or not I could get it all done when I was already on campus, and thus already paying for parking.
  • We hold two scheduled office hours, and then the third hour is satisfied by the "by appointment," being willing and able to meet with students outside of office hours if they can't make them. And I was nervous students would ask for this because it meant I'd have to pay for additional parking.
It seems like a silly thing, parking. But it's yet another way that being poor, not having a lot of disposable income, being budgeted within an inch of your life, affects day to day life. What other ways do the daily expenses of grad school life affect you? How can a little thing end up having a huge impact?

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