PAW web exclusive column by Wes Tooke '98 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
With no loans to repay, students can do something
truly in the nation's service
Office of Career Services
needs to expand the options it offers
by Wes Tooke '98
I've decided to break
with an august tradition in this column and start with the facts.
A few weeks ago the Princeton
brain trust in Nassau Hall announced that the university was going
to massively revise and expand the financial aid packages it offers
to both graduate and undergraduate students. Both aspects of the
plans are interesting and worthy of discussion.
the new benefits being offered to graduate students seem likely
to partially relieve the Gulag conditions suffered by the university's
noble candidates for a higher degree, I'm going to follow a long-standing
Princeton tradition and ignore them.
the undergraduate plan. It's the best thing to happen to the university
since David Duchovny '82 did us proud on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
While the plan contains
several exciting initiatives - including a complete commitment to
being need-blind to international applicants - the most interesting
component is that Princeton will replace student loans with grants,
which means that a freshman entering the university next year will
have a fighting chance at graduating without any debt.
Considering that loans
account for 60 percent of the average student-aid package at American
colleges and universities, Princeton's decision marks a dramatic
break with financial aid tradition. Nationally, students who take
out loans graduate an average of $15-20,000 in debt. And although
Princeton's new plan won't entirely eliminate student loans - if
a student wants to join an eating club, for example, he might need
to take out an auxiliary loan - it will be possible for almost every
student who attends the university to stroll out the gates without
owing any money.
The new initiative contains
many obvious benefits, but perhaps the most impressive feature is
the freedom it will present to Princeton graduates. My own wish
is that graduating seniors will find it easier to opt off the corporate
track - after all, it's certainly easier to accept a risky or low
paying job if you know that a bank won't be shadowing you for the
next 10 years of your life.
But if the university
really wants to help seniors who are looking to do something different,
it also needs to revise its advising policies. My senior year, "Princeton
in the nation's service" felt like an absurd motto. Although
many of my classmates took Project 55 or Teach for America jobs,
the Office of Career Services bombarded us so constantly with interviews
for investment banks and consulting firms that it often seemed that
we had no other options but to run to Wall Street.
So I propose that the
Office of Career Services should expand its mission to truly encompass
the needs of all seniors - especially those seniors who don't know
what they want. Perhaps the OCS could publish a weekly newsletter
of job opportunities from across the spectrum: teaching positions
in developing countries, research work at the UN, rafting guides
jobs in the Grand Canyon.
They could call it an
opportunity list, and they could publish it secure in the knowledge
that the low pay of these jobs wouldn't be an insurmountable obstacle
to any senior.
I don't know if that
effort would mean hiring more staff or just redefining the purpose
of the office. But now that Princeton can truly say that it is giving
all of its graduates an opportunity to work in the "service
of all nations," the university needs to ensure that it dedicates
as many resources to the students seeking alternative careers as
the ones who go to Wall Street.
Wes Tooke can be reached