I actually have three jobs, I work full time, I teach one class (all I have been able to get) and i just took a second part time job for 16 hours a week. Each year essentially I make less money because expenses keep rising but the rate of pay does not. My taxes go up and up so my mortgage goes up and I didn’t even paint the house – I can’t afford to. I’m considering moving out of the city to find a cheaper cost of living but I want my daughter to stay in the same school.
My name is Tom Kroll. I have been working for Columbia for about 10 years now, beginning as a student worker, and making my way up to part time and finally becoming full time staff about 3 years ago. I graduated from Columbia with a BA in Marketing Communications. Since this occurred, I have not been able to obtain a job in the field I paid over $120,000 to learn about. When I started at Columbia, the messaging from Financial Services was very different. Rather than, “Get scholarships and grants,” it was, “If you don’t have enough, take out private loans.” That is exactly what I did. And now, I only make $30,000 a year ($22,000 after taxes), and my loans, which are at the bare minimum payments, still take an entire paycheck. This leaves me about $900 a month for rent, bills, food, transportation costs for work, and other living expenses. I live in the suburbs with my mother. Something I do not want to do as a 27-year-old man, but something I have little choice about. I help her by paying $400 a month in rent and we are still on the verge of losing our house. In fact, we have had to do a deed in lieu of foreclosure and are waiting for the details on when we have to be out. Because of this I will be forced to move in with my father who lives even farther away. This means my already $200/month train pass will cost even more. On top of that, Metra also plans to continue to raise the fare every year for the next 5 years. If you have been calculating, after my student loans, my rent, and my transportation cost (which is only for the train and does not include gas money for my vehicle), only leaves me at $300 left a month. With this I typically have to purchase food and other essentials. I can never afford new clothes, or any sort of luxury item. I have to cut my own hair as I cannot even afford to pay a barber.
In the years I have been working at Columbia, I have been all but promised a promotion from several managers in my office. I have applied for well over 5 positions within the department I work for now, each time being looked over for people from outside of the college who know little about Columbia, and are not even alumni. I have never even received a raise, with the exception of the humiliating 1% we were given to counter the increase in health care costs. Even more of a slap in the face to the employees of this college is the fact that they have now decided to create a new student center. In my opinion this is something needed and a great thing, however, they have decided to build an entire building rather than use one of the vacant ones we already own. This is money we are told we do not have for raises, but can go into building a new building while paying for buildings that we are not even utilizing. It is quite insulting. The staff and faculty at Columbia work hard and put up with a lot of false promises, yet we still put on smiling faces because we care about the students. However, this caring and passion for our jobs is being mistaken as contentment and loyalty to the powers that be. We are willing to fight for what we deserve. I believe my position of Counseling Associate, is one of the lowest paid college positions of its kind in the entire country.
There is no way any human being can afford to live on such a measly salary. Raises are essential for employees to be able to continue living with the times. Without this, you will certainly lose employees (as is already happening at a massive rate) and morale at the school will continue to drop, leading to people no longer caring about their jobs and the institution going down the drain. I struggle daily with finances as we all do. Currently I have $20 to last me until Dec. 1st. No Black Friday shopping for Christmas presents, no helping make a dish for Thanksgiving, hell I might not even be able to make it out to my father’s house for Thanksgiving as I might not be able to afford the gas to do so. If this is the way Columbia expects their employees to live, it might be time to move on from an institution I love and am very passionate about.