To some students at Chapman University, excess is a way of life. To others, just keeping up can seem impossible.
“I hear comments about how ‘everyone at Chapman is rich’ all the time,” said Chapman University’s Director of Psychological Counseling, Dr. Jeanne Walker, “but that is simply not the case.”
It may be true that not all of the Chapman student body has a trust fund waiting for them, however, the gilded bubble of the Chapman campus, filled with Bentleys, Blackberries and Louis Vuitton, can prove overwhelming to students who don’t have easy access to regular luxury. While their friends are busy with weekend getaways to Las Vegas or San Diego, or splurging on mid-week sushi, less affluent students can start to feel disconnected. In the end, though, many discover that the independence they gained through hard work is well worth the privileges they went without.
“It’s hard to ignore those students who have access to anything they want,” said Walker, “and way too easy to ignore those students who don’t.”
Chelsea Allen, a sophomore vocal performance major, would agree.
“I watch those people who just have everything handed to them and it frustrates me. I have worked for everything I own, and of course, deep down inside of me I know how much value that really does hold; however, after years of it, it gets rough.”
In an effort to keep up with their peers and still take care of basic necessities like groceries and rent, many students take on multiple jobs. However, making work a priority can add yet another stress to the already burdensome college load.
“More hours at work takes away hours from my life, which bumps homework back, which bumps friends back, which bumps me back,” Allen said.
KerriAnne Rivas, a junior, works two jobs and said that though they provide her with the money she needs, there are still times when she is forced to cut back on spending.
“Sometimes I have to put my foot down and just say no, I can’t do that this week,” Rivas said. “There are only so many $4 side salads one can enjoy before getting sick of them.”
In Chapman’s privileged environment, in the heart of Orange County affluence, even those who describe their families as being upper middle class can feel like they’re falling behind. Junior transfer, Robby Furrer, who is paying for his own education, says he used to feel bitter toward some of his initial friends on campus because he couldn’t keep pace with their spending habits.
“Everyone has expensive taste,” Furrer said. “I just had to find the right crowd.”
Furrer lives in a posh apartment complex a mile or two off campus and works three jobs to maintain his lifestyle and his financial independence.
Despite the setbacks that come with having a lower income, students overwhelmingly agree that the lessons they have learned through dealing with financial pressures far outweigh the inconvenience of having to think twice before filling up the gas tank.
“I don’t look at it like I have less money than anyone, these are my circumstances,” said Rivas. “This independence and work ethic will only help me in the long run.”
Besides helping young people develop skills they will use for the rest of their lives, financial challenges often train students to find value and happiness in qualities that cannot be purchased.
“Lack of money has caused difficulty and struggle,” said Allen, “but ultimately, it has rewarded my family with care, compassion and determination.”
For those students who still look longingly at their peers’ closet full of designer jeans, Walker would like them to remember that it shouldn’t affect their happiness.
“If being jealous of someone else’s wealth prevents you from being happy, then you aren’t controlling your own life – they are.”