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]

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