After four semesters of paying thousands of dollars in tuition with a card, the sophomore in electrical engineering thought it was time for a silent protest. A week before tuition was due, he had the idea to pay his bill with a chest full of small cash.
“I had to pull some serious strings to even get everything to pay for my tuition this semester, and I wanted it to feel worthwhile,” he said. “I decided that … I would feel a little better if I did it like that.”
Mughal had to go to three banks to cash enough one-dollar bills to pay his $2,000 tuition bill, which is half of the full cost of his classes. The other half is covered by scholarship, since his father works at the U. One by one, the banks ran out of small bills. In the end, he ended up with a metal case filled to the brim, with just a few five-dollar bills to make up the difference.
When he arrived around 2 p.m., the line to pay tuition wound all the way along the basement of the Student Services Building.
He joined the hundreds of students lined up to pay their tuition in person, carrying his hefty metal case.
Two and a half hours later, he opened the latches at the cashier’s window.
“Everyone was peeking over my shoulder when I opened the chest,” he said.
Other than that, there was “nothing too eventful.” The cashier just accepted the cash.
“She didn’t even count it,” Mughal said.
Mughal, who attends classes from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day and works 16-hour shifts on the weekends at the Home Depot, said you have to work hard to be successful. Paying his tuition in small bills reminded Mughal of the sacrifice he is making to go to school.
“When you spend cash, you feel every dollar that you hand over to someone else,” he said. “You feel that you’re losing that. If you just swipe your card, it could be 10,000 or 100,000 bucks and you don’t really feel it. When you actually slide over a huge pile of cash, you really feel like you’ve spent that. That’s your money, and you also want to make that worthwhile by doing well in school.”
Students standing in line thought the idea was “hilarious.”
“I think that’s awesome,” laughed Briana Mahoney, a sophomore in elementary education, who stood in line for more than an hour to pay her tuition.
Amika Burdick, a senior in nursing, agreed that tuition prices are “ridiculous.” And Anton Nielsen, an undeclared sophomore, said that they are “way expensive,” even though the U is still less expensive than many schools in the nation.
“It’s kind of unfair for students who want to succeed, but they just can’t because they don’t have the money,” Nielsen said.
Mughal said Tuesday’s event was a trial run on an idea he had at the last minute. He said he would love to have more students join him in the cash-only crusade next semester.
“If everyone here brought a chest of money like this, I’m sure by the end of the day, there would be a lot of people talking about it that could actually make a difference in what we are paying for tuition,” he said.