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Point of View

Point of View

How are Berkeley students faring in hard times?
Undergrads sound off on the economic crisis and how it's affecting their lives

It would be wrong to suggest that every Berkeley undergrad is feeling the pinch of the current economic crisis. Many are not yet job holders, job seekers, small-business operators, or home owners; some are insulated from money worries, for now, by parental largess or their student financial aid. But others — their families facing business losses, job layoffs, or home-mortgage troubles — find themselves looking for cheaper housing, worrying about their debt load, or (especially if they're about to graduate) stressing about their job prospects.

Asked recently, in an unscientific survey around Sproul Plaza, whether the economic crisis is a topic of conversation among students, several undergrads said the college years, traditionally, are a time to enjoy life, so you won't hear much about it in the dorms. "I don't want to talk about it, so I haven't…" said one financial-aid student whose mother is losing her job. Here, in their own words, 11 Berkeley undergrads discuss how they're faring in rocky economic times.

Emily Rosales

On the housing crisis: 'The economy is personally affecting me and my family currently. We've been having trouble with the banks, with our home mortgage. … Hopefully it will all get better in the end, and we won't have to lose our house or anything.'

Emily Rosales, sophomore, intended major: political economy. Hometown: Los Angeles
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On out-of-state tuition: 'With the tuition and fee changes … that's what really hits me as an out-of-state student. … But I'm … not graduating anytime soon, so I don't have to worry about paying my loans back quite this moment.'

Louis Rogers, sophomore, English
Hometown: Tigard, OR

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Louis Rogers
Jenny Trautman

On mom's layoff: 'My mom … is going to be losing her job in June. So I have to think about next year. … I have to pay off all my student loans when I get out of college.'

Jenny Trautman, sophomore, architecture Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA

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On being a student parent: 'To cope with these economic cutbacks, I have to go all the way to Marin County to work in a childcare center. I go there to do puppets, story time, teach the kids. That's extra cash. And at the same time my baby is learning from me.'

Consuelo Bustinza, senior, international & area studies. Hometown: Antambamba, Peru
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Consuelo Bustinza
Hakeem Naim

On a big cut in work hours: 'I was working as a security manager for one company and a security investigator for another. I got laid off the investigative job, and for my managerial post I got cut almost to half, the hours that I was working. … In one aspect it gives me more time to spread flyers and be active.'

Hakeem Naim, junior, Middle Eastern Studies Home country: Afghanistan
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On need for caution: 'I'm not directly impacted. On an everyday level, nothing has changed in my life per se. But … it's going to hit me at some point. … My friends who have graduated, you know, their motto is never graduate right now.'

Zain Syed, senior, interdisciplinary studies
Hometown: Santa Monica
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Zain Syed
Nicole Thomas

On the job market: 'My major, film studies, doesn't have too many practical purposes. So I'm kind of relying on having a degree from Berkeley to get a job. And I really don't know how well that's going to go over with employers.'

Nicole Thomas, senior, film studies
Hometown: Cypress, CA

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On rethinking career goals: 'I might want to be a lawyer now instead of a businessman, because of the economic downturn. … Business just doesn't look good right now. I'm thinking of being a corporate lawyer, so maybe I could actually help the businesses in some way.'

Julian Daniels, freshman, mathematics
Hometown: Diamond Bar, CA
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Julian Daniels
Dan O'Connor

On paying the rent: 'I'm going to have to find a place to live that's a lot cheaper next semester, even though where I am is incredibly convenient.… I'm splitting the cost of my education with my parents. I had enough savings where I was doing OK. But I'm going to have to take out a loan for my last year.'

Dan O'Connor, junior, chemical biology
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
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On the illusion of security: 'My dad has a hamburger shop, and it's not doing so well right now. … I've come to realize that I can't really put my hope in finances or really anything that seems secure. … There's nothing we can really count on and depend on, at least in this world.'

Han Bit Lee, senior, molecular & cell biology
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
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Han Bit Lee
Warren Grunwald

On student jobs: 'The economy hasn't affected me too much me personally, because of the scholarships provided by the ROTC. But some of my friends need the extra money. Stuff's getting more expensive, and there's less jobs available. So they have to look even harder.'

Warren Grunwald, freshman, mechanical engineering. Hometown: Sacramento, CA
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