Students feel the effects of the fallen stock market
At the beginning of the semester, Chapman economics professor Lynne Doti ordered a brand new textbook for her students.In just a few months, it was out of date.With the economy changing dramatically, Doti has changed the focus of her class to the current economic state, she said.But the classroom isn’t the only place where Chapman students are learning about the economic crisis. Many students are worried about their financial situations. With less money to go around, students are having trouble keeping or getting jobs, acquiring student loans and maintaining or making investments.From the wealthiest people to the poorest people, I think everyone’s going to be in trouble this coming year,” said Doti.The crisis was triggered last spring by banks that were being too lenient in lending sub-prime mortgages, which are mortgages for applicants with poor credit. Many homeowners faced foreclosure when they could not pay their loans back, and as a result the real estate values plummeted.The situation has become most visible in the past few months. The economy worsened because of the instability of the stock market and the bankruptcy of many financial firms that issued sub-prime mortgages, like Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Washington Mutual.The crisis could be the worst of its kind since the Great Depression, said ex-chairman of the Financial Reserve, Alan Greenspan, in a September issue of the Huffington Post. And just like many large businesses and stockholders, students and their families are suffering.”I’m on the edge of not being able to go to school,” said sophomore Alissa Caton.Caton uses a student loan from Wells Fargo to pay for her Chapman tuition. She hasn’t had a problem getting a loan in the past. Now, with banks more cautious about who they loan money to, she is worried that she will not be able to re-obtain hers.”For people who don’t have any credit, it’s going to be especially hard to get loans. ” Banks are going to be stingy about giving out money,” said senior economics major Joe Brothman.Only specific types of student loans are at risk, according to Don Booth, professor of economics. Any student loan that is government guaranteed, meaning the government will pay the bank back if the student does not, should still be easy to get, he said.One of the biggest hardships during this economic crisis is getting a job, especially for students who work mostly on a part-time basis, according to Booth and Doti.”Businesses are very uncertain right now, and when they’re uncertain they don’t want to take on any extra expenses,” said Doti.Senior Michael Moore is looking for a second job because he is not earning enough at REI. The company has lost business but instead of firing people it is cutting down hours, he said.”The last two weeks I worked four hours when I normally work 20 to 25 hours a week,” said Moore.Sophomore Dane Morris lost his job as a choir section leader at Saint John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa because the church had to cut back. He still has a second job, but is not in a comfortable financial situation, he said.”I’m making $400 less a month,” said Morris.The first thing businesses do during a crisis is stop hiring seasonal workers, which means any part-time job will be difficult to get, said Doti. But full-time jobs are not easy to get either, she said.Booth recognizes another problem for graduates looking for jobs at this time.”After graduation, students have a sizable debt. ” Whether or not it’s too much depends on the kind of job you can get,” he said.However, many Chapman students are more worried about staying in school than what they will do when they get out. Junior Kim Grant’s father is a loan officer for Washington Mutual and her family began to worry about its finances when the company began to decline.”It got to the point where we didn’t know if my dad was going to have a job or not,” said Grant.Washington Mutual’s stock price had dropped as low as $2 by mid-September, when it had been worth more than $30 a year before, according to the New York Stock Exchange.Every day, Grant’s father would come home talking about how many people had been laid off, she said. Fortunately, he was able to keep his job and remains a loan officer even now that JPMorgan Chase has acquired Washington Mutual.”He is extremely lucky,” said Grant. “Had something gone wrong, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay at Chapman.”Sophomore Sara Weinberg’s family’s business has benefited from the economic crisis. Her father is a numismatist, a coin and medal dealer.”His larger, avid collectors are investing in gold pieces because the price of gold has been a steady, high price for a while,” she said. “For rich collectors, it’s a smart investment rather than stocks or bonds.”Other students plan to benefit from the economic crisis by investing their money. Brothman has already made a small amount of money investing in multiple fallen stocks.”If you’re smart, there’s a lot of money to be made right now,” said Brothman.Doti doesn’t think investors, especially students, should be playing the stock market during this economic crisis.”I think when something is so volatile, you really have to know what you’re doing,” she said.Whether it is having trouble getting student loans, keeping jobs at failing businesses or knowing what to do in the stock market, it is all new territory for students.And it certainly is not discussed in any textbook.