Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Robbing Banks To Pay Tuition?!? Negro Please.

There are dumb criminal stories, dumber criminal stories, dumberer criminal stories, then stories like this that really, really make you scratch your head.

Andrew Butler should be a junior at the University of Toledo, where the theater major would be starring in school plays, maybe one day headed to Hollywood or Broadway. Christopher Avery should be a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati, an engineering major with a lucrative career ahead.

Instead, the men are going to prison for at least 20 years because they tried to raise tuition money with two armed holdups last summer.

Avery, 22, of College Hill, and Butler, 20, of Milford, pleaded guilty Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to two charges of aggravated robbery and six charges of kidnapping.

Butler pleaded guilty to an additional charge of vandalism stemming from damage done to the Hamilton County Justice Center after his arrest.

"Why?" Judge Steve Martin asked the men, who had no criminal records. "You're in college, I don't understand."

Both men cited tuition.

Butler said tuition went up so his scholarships and financial aid were not enough.

"I was stressed out," he said. "I needed more money for college."

Avery said an internship at Kroger fell through, leaving no money for summer classes.

"I was strapped for cash," he said. "I thought I had nothing to lose."

The men said they faced two options: steal the money or drop out.
I'm on the fence about this one. Neither of these guys has prior run-ins with the law, yet they felt so strapped for tuition, they (unsuccessfully) tried to rob a check cashing joint, then ripped off a bank for $130K.

Part of me says I understand the plight here. Back in the day (we're talking decades ago) when I was in college, tuition at my HBCU was only about $800/semester. You could knock that out by pushing carts at Target every weekend, and still cop yourself an off-campus bachelor pad with money to spare for late night runs to Citgo for greasy chicken wings and 40's liquid refreshment. Of course, I was an in-state resident at this public college, and I stayed off campus. For my out of state friends, the financial situation was far more dire. They were literally paying 4-5 times more per semester, especially if you lived off the yard. Still, the quality of education was excellent, I graduated with 9 job offers, and I've gone on to do well enough in my career that I can carve out a spare 15 mins a day to blog on the job. I'd say my college experience was pretty good.

That said, times have changed. By the time AverageToddler matriculates to higher ed, we'll probably be looking at $50k+ a year if he goes to his mother's preferred destination (UPenn) or significantly less if he goes to my HBCU. But what's clear is that the days of being able to work and pay for school are long over. Higher education costs are far outpacing the rate of inflation. Note to all new parents, or parents period: Don't mess around, start that 529 today.

We'd all like to think our kid will either be a Über Scholar or have a wicked "J" to offset these tuition costs, but reality is, if you aren't putting away something for their education today, you're gonna pay big time tomorrow.

On the flipside, I really wish these guys had considered other options before going and "settin' it off". Couldn't they have applied for more financial aid, or gotten work study programs, or begged an NBA player for help? It's really a shame when it has to come down to that.

Then again, it's also entirely possible that these cats just hit that lick because they wanted some money for 24-inch rims and Red Monkey jeans, and their public defendant is just drumming up the "pay for tuition" excuse for sympathy. Robbing banks for tuition sounds about as logical and realistic as "stripping for tuition". Not that I know personally, of course. I'm just sayin'.

What do ya'll think? Did these brothers really pull a caper to pay for room and board or were they just trying to come up? Holler back in the comments.

[Editor's Note: If nothing else, I think this story underscores the relative bargain of HBCU's. These cats probably wouldn't have had to rob a bank had they gone to Central State U. HBCU's make college affordable for everyone, and while some of you may argue about the quality of education, I'd counter by saying that just like all majority institutions aren't equal, neither are all HBCU's. Some are crappy, some are great. But as a whole, they continue to provide a valuable service and a learning environment that is supportive for their core constituents. Oh, and Homecomings are the idd'ish too.]

Robbers: Tuition was motive [Cincy Enquirer]

8 AverageComments™:

Dark & Stormy said...

They have no excuse for robbing a bank. It's really sad that these guys couldn't come up with a better solution. Stories like this hurt my heart because I feel bad knowing that their lives are about to change forever because of one stupid mistake. But they broke the law. Plain & simple.

My mom used to tell me don't hesitate to call her if I was ever in trouble... No matter what. Unless it was stealing. Don't call her for that.

Anonymous said...

No one knows more than I do how much college costs...single parent of a college kid) that being said the bottom line is they broke the law. There are ways and no where in the article does it say they tried to get a job...ohhh..what a concept. Worse case scenario, you go to a community college, work while you earn cash, transfer to finsih the bachelors, then try to get a job with a company that pays tuition. Thats what I did. My parents didn't have the money for college. It takes longer but its honest.

No breaks here..they broke the law they serve the time.

domo said...

I call BS. If these guys really needed money, they would have gotten fulltime jobs and sat out a semester to raise funds.

No excuses.

Anonymous said...

I won't judge, but I kept wondering what was going to happened after continually reading stories about the widening gap between rich and poor, desperate ppl do desperate things. I have been there and the mind is not clear. If they had dropped out most studies show ppl don't return to college until 5 to 10 years later, earning minimum wage in the meantime. Middle income familes cannot support themselves on one paycheck, thousands of jobs for the middle class have been shipped overseas. PPl want to kick out the Mexicans that pick ALL our produce, build houses, and are nannies. It seems Congress passes legislation that we don't realize the effects of until it's too late. There are going to be so many more desparate ppl. there are two million ppl behind bars they will get out one day. all this money for wars, we reap what we so America.

Thembi said...

Ok some things you dont know about Thembi -
-I live within walking distance from U Penn so if you bring shorty to come visit holla atcha girl.
-I went to an Ivy, and my loan payments are not easy to make considering I work at a nonprofit - I mean its really no joke at all because I am constantly aware that the payment schedule Ive been forced into is not at all economically smart since Im barely even paying the interest. BUT I was also raised to do what I really want to do with my life (hippie parents who met at UPenn, afterall), so I wouldnt change a thing!
-Undergrad and the name that it carries has done more for me than anything else I can think of, except for the fact that Im a black female with a loving father.
- I lived and taught in France for a while, where tuiton TODAY even for medical school damn near free, which really makes you think about the purpose and intention of our system and who its meant to let in and keep out...
- I work in the testing industry, and have learned that people will do anything to get high scores just so they can get financial breaks from schools - of course, the people who can afford to really prepare for tests like the SATS usually have a spare 2k lying around to be able to afford the prep, making the whole process pretty moot.

All of that said, I cant bring myself to get into any hustles to make ends meet...I mean um, hello, if these were females what would they be doin? Thats right kids, STRIPPIN for tution "I see your vision, Ma" style. As sick as I am of watching black men meet their downfalls over dumb stuff (the fact that there was even a check cashing joint to be HAD is a problem on its own), I wish these dudes had just been a tad more prepared for what they were facing. This is really a reflection of the state of black economic awareness - had they made a budget (even if realizing they wouldnt be able to afford to go to college before starting, which is sad but very real) they wouldnt have found themselves in this position. Break the law to feed a child in a crunch, not because you failed to plan for the ridiculous costs of attending college.

BookishBlackGirl said...

Tuition or not-there's no excuse for what they did.

I finished college less than a yr. ago with the debt burden to show for it. And you know what? I knew what I was getting into when I enrolled. I could have gone to a less expensive state college but instead chose my university. I worked 30 hr/wk while attending school full time and now I'm paying my monthly installment of the loans telling myself that it was worth it for the education and experience.

Getting student loans is so easy (probably a little too easy thanks to unscrupulous lenders). If these young men really valued their education and future, a 2pg student loan form would have done it. Not to talk of the obvious applying for scholarships, more financial aid, etc.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I had the same problem when I was in school. I went on a football deal but I tore my knee up during my junior year. That same year my coach got fired and I was told I would have to earn my ride with the new coach because my scholarship needed to be renewed each year. I tranferred to another school they offered me a new deal but I needed to pay for the 2nd semester and summer session then my scholarship would take effect in the fall. With no one to turn to I did three things, I got 2 jobs one at the various clubs doing security the second was a full time gig from 1 to 9 M-F the third I hustled herb to my peers. And I went on to have a successful college experience. People can judge thats fine, I will do it again in a heartbeat. I do not agree with violence but I am kinda sorry these guys got caught. They did not hurt anyone did they.

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