Economic climate impacts students, though many unaffected

For Kris Nelson, a third year commuter law student at the University of Miami, the current economic situation is unwelcome. Higher gas prices cost him over $100 a week.

However, Genevieve Mendes, a second year law student, said today’s economy has saved her money.

“It made renting a lot easier,” Mendes said. “When I was looking for a house there were a lot more available houses compared to last year.”

The houses were also cheaper this year, Mendes added. She attributes this change to homeowners renting their houses because they were unable to sell them.

A 2008 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University confirms Mendes’ hypothesis. There has been an increase in rental properties from home owners that are unable to sell their houses.

Students at the University of Miami have reacted to higher gas prices, more expensive food and a crumbling stock market in a variety of ways.

Students have continued to shop at UM’s bookstore and at the food court. The bookstore has had record sales during new student orientation and the food services sales have also remained strong this year. Mel Tenen, assistant vice president for Auxiliary Services, said increased sales are due to higher quality food on campus.

“The food court today is jamming,” Tenen said. “Our students are quality-driven and our food service delivers quality products.”

Tenen also said that the new venues, including Kosher restaurant Oasis and the C-store in the University Village, have helped keep sales strong. Tenen added that Oasis has a strong following and is more popular than Storm Surge, the restaurant it replaced.

Students such as Dave Green, an unemployed second-year law student, have made sacrifices to meet financially destitute times.

“Sometimes I might have one less drink,” Green said. “I try to go out closer to home and not go all the way to [Coconut Grove] to save gas.”

Other students that are in trouble are those majoring in finance. According to Christian Garcia, associate director of Employee Relations for the Toppel Career Center, finance majors will have a hard time finding a job on Wall Street, which has seen a string of failing firms, including Lehman Brothers.

Lehman Brothers has had a special relationship with UM; it has consistently donated to the Toppel Career Center – including $25,000 to its computer lab – and hired many UM graduate students. Garcia had received no news about these students being laid off. Garcia said the current market favors students studying to be a teacher, nurse or accountant.

“It’s easy to get jobs in these fields because there is always a demand for them,” he said.

Garcia did not recommend switching majors to fit the market or going to graduate school to wait out the current economic situation.

“Go to graduate school only if you want to,” Garcia said. “Graduate school is a big commitment both financially and time-wise.”

Garcia does recommend looking at smaller, local corporations to find jobs.

Nuray Akins, an assistant professor of economics at the School of Business, said nothing changes for students with loans from firms such as Lehman Brothers.

“Loans are not going to change,” Akins said. “You are just going to be paying someone else.”

Additional student loans will be more difficult to obtain. Private individuals are less likely to trust their money in banks as major firms like Bear Sterns have had to receive government bail-outs. This lack of funds means less money for the banks to give to students.

According to Akins, inflation will also hurt students.

“Life is going to get more expensive,” Akins said.

However, some students feel that they are not bothered by today’s economy.

A weak dollar and a feeling of uncertainty about the future of the economy is all that bothers Gabe Basham, an unemployed freshman. Gas prices, the stock market and the cost of food have not had a large effect on him.

Aimee Gonzalez, a junior that works as an assistant facility supervisor at the Wellness Center, is not affected by the economic crises either.

“Gas prices have not really been out of control where I have had a hard time buying it, and when I go grocery shopping I shop for bargains anyways,” Gonzalez said.

As far as the stock market goes, Gonzalez said she did not have any stake in it.