Students spend millions in county

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 1999

News Editor

Published Aug. 22, 1999

Jason White, 23, packed his ’66 Ford Mustang, left the comforts of his home in Stone Mountain, Ga., and the chance for a HOPE Scholarship to attend Troy State University.

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"My parents wanted me to stay at home and take advantage of the HOPE Scholarship," said White. "But after visiting Troy State with a friend and his father. I was willing to take out loans to attend and pay them back later."

Like White many Troy State students leave their homes and strike out for a fresh start. Even though the move may place a financial burden on the students and their families, Pike County’s economy benefits from the students, the money they bring with them, make while they are here and spend with area merchants.

Mac R. Holmes, research professor of business and economics in the TSU Small Business Development Center, said students like White spend about $24.5 million per year in Pike County, based on a 1993-94 study.

Holmes said about two-thirds of the student population at TSU do not live in this area or commute, and wouldn’t be here if it were not for Troy State.

"Those students are probably spending about $8,150 each per year," said Holmes. "That’s taking into account the rise in inflation, and that students’ spending doesn’t increase at the same rate as inflation.

"And with higher tuition and fees, I suspect some students aren’t spending as much."

White said aside from tuition and books he spends about $75 per week with Pike County merchants.

Multi-child families often rely on financial aid, scholarships and part-time jobs to help offset the cost of college. But even with assistance, many times parents have to carry some of the burden for their degree-seeking children.

White has a 19-year-old sister who attends college in Georgia with the assistance of the Hope Scholarship, financial aid and their parents. He said he got a job at Continental Cinema 5 in Troy because he knows his and his sister’s education place financial stress on their parents.

"My parents help out when they can," said White. "I got a job because I felt guilty about draining their checking account."

When parental help is not available and schedules do not permit time for part-time jobs students must depend solely on scholarships and financial aid. In the March 1999 Fact Book published by Troy State University, 3,296 of 4,408 undergraduate students applied for financial aid. Of those 3,296, university officials said 3,021 were determined to have a need for financial aid, and 2,915 received financial aid.

Matthew Guy, 21, of Bay Minette lives on-campus in Pace Hall. His only source of income is provided by a state supplement aid, a Pell grant and a Rotary Scholarship. He said he gets no assistance from his parents for his schooling.

"I worked in Panama City Beach during the summer doing missionary work," said Guy. "Most of the money I made paid for that, and I only had about $300 to get me back here."

Guy said when it comes time to spend money he has to be thrifty and only spends about $20 a week. He said he depends on the balance of his Trojan Card to pay for meals in the cafeteria, pay bills and buy snacks.

Guy said last year he worked five days a week as a student aid in the Natatorium, but couldn’t find many jobs outside the university.

Many managers of retail stores and fast-food and casual dining restaurants employ many TSU students because they are the ones who need jobs, but some students said because of competiton among each other they face difficulties finding a job in Pike County.

Some managers and store owners agree that some of their best employees are Troy State students. Employers said TSU students’ are willing to work around their schedulles and they are willing to work around the students’.

"They (students) are the main ones who come in and fill out applications," said Steve Whitehead, manager of Goody’s Clothing Store. "We have really good luck with them for the most part."

Managers of McDonald’s and Papa Johns Pizza said 90 to 98 percent of their employees are Troy State students.

"That’s really who is mainly look for jobs," said Eric Bland, McDonald’s manager.

FoodWorld Manager John Fallo said some of his better employees are students from Troy State.

Regardless of whether jobs are available, students continue to come into the Pike County area from out of town to attend Troy State University. With financial aid and assistance from their parents, the students may not be among the work force of the county, but their money is still well spent.