It is very interesting to me that there are people running around today saying that a free education is not possible. But maybe it still is. I took a few free courses a long time ago at CCNY = Community College of New York. People are paying now, I think, but there is some talk about making all Universities and Community Colleges completely free. I think it true that I got an “almost free education” at New York University (NYU) in Greenwich Village. I studied Music, Math, Physics plus Film & T.V. and when I left in 1978, I had a new wardrobe and lots of cash money in my pockets. And this was not hard to do even though I was on welfare suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and lived for five years in an un-heated apartment on West 122nd St. in Harlem.
I think that being on welfare might even have helped me at the time. I got PELL Grants and maybe some others also, I don’t really recall it all. But I very well remember working in the Electronics Repair Department to help pay my tuition. I spent as much time as I could at NYU in the winter because the buildings were heated of course and all I had at home was a gas stove, in the kitchen that I used to keep my feet warm while I practiced my guitar. I used my electric blanket to heat the bed before I got into it. I thank God that I had electricity and that it was never turned off.
At NYU, Rom Ray was a technician in the repair lab and we both knew electronics, but we came at it from different directions. He knew trouble-shooting and repair and I knew digital circuits. We had great fun teaching each other. Unfortunately, we got a new supervisor who didn’t like me at all and got me fired but by that time, I had learned enough to get a job renting and repairing Nagra open-reel tape recorders which were industry standard machines used in T.V. Studios and in Hollywood. At the time, these machines sold for $10,000 each. We rented and sold some very expensive microphones as well. On the less expensive side, we sold the cables for the equipment we rented and sold. It was my job to build them and put them out for sale.
A lot of years went by and it was time to pay for both the little bit of misery and the tons of fun I had at NYU. I wound up owing around $3,000 but this was due to me taking some very bad advice from my un-licensed “financial advisor” who had helped me stuff my pockets with legal cash on so many other occasions. He advised me “not” to pay my school loan which was one loan you really had to pay off. Years of this “not paying” added what to me was a shocking amount of interest to my debt which I finally did have to pay. Of course, I forgave him after I paid back the loan plus interest and we are still friends. I had last year’s Thanksgiving dinner with him and others we were in business with and we laughed about the hard times plus all the fun and the profits we made.
Today, college graduates can owe the price of a new home when they graduate so what I wound up having to pay seemed like a lot at the time but by today’s standards is almost nothing. Right now, total student debt in the U.S. is said to be $1.5 Trillion.
By the way, when I finally had to pay off the school loan, I was playing guitar and bass in an R&B Band and having another “great time of my life”. I sold one of my guitars to raise the needed cash. I still have my bass and four guitars left. A free education? I feel like I got very close to one.
There are a few more things to mention. Being an African American I would rather be dead than to ever suck up to the powers that be. The result is that I have been on Welfare several times. I started growing my “Dread” Locks in 1970 and saw them as the connection to my Egyptian Heritage from which we had all been separated. I was told to shave off the “Evidence” and when I politely refused I was visited by the police and they shut down my business at gunpoint. Next thing I knew, I was on welfare. This was the first time I hit bottom and whenever I hit bottom, I dig my way out by going back to school. There are tons of free courses and classes available in New York City. I was trained in Programming IBM 360 Mainframes with tape drives and the great MFCM (aka “The Mother F-ing Card Mangler) attached. The free course was given by IBM. The company I was working for let me take the computer manuals home overnight to study. I later became a Data Processing Manager with a staff of key-punch operators under my supervision. I took courses in repairing and building desktop computers when that training became available later.
I tend to be somewhat curious and flexable so I studied Building Trades when the opportunity came along: I took plumbing, sheet rock, electricity and boiler maintenance with book-keeping thrown in – and all for free. A certificate is often given when you complete many courses. Presenting some of these is how I became appointed by a judge as a 7A Administrator to manage two NYC apartment buildings on West 168th St. It was like being a landlord and later, the court said I owned the buildings. Having developed these housing skills, two of my senior family members signed their house in the New Jersey suburbs over to me as well as all of their money and a Cadillac when I promised to care for them, which I did.
After they passed away, I liquidated my holdings and took a sabbatical to study Three Camera T.V. and Video Editing at Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN). The training was free. All I had to do was promise to produce and air T.V. shows for a while. I wound up working there producing programs for fifteen years. I retired from Television Production about two years ago.
I had to pay to learn all this T.V stuff at NYU but at MNN all the classes were free. They made Three Camera Studios and crews available in-house and let me take out professional cameras, plus audio and lighting equipment for use when I needed to work in the field. All was “industry standard” equipment and free to use after you complete the courses. Industry Standard meant that we were trained on the same equipment the major studios used and this let me spend some time at Channel 7 (ABC) for a while since I was already familiar with their equipment. This training is available in all five boroughs. Finally, this article is courtesy of the Publisher of Black Star News who has taught me and many others how to be serious Journalists. The training has been free. This is New York and you can get a free or almost free education if you work at it.
(Do a Google search using the following: “Free courses available in New York City”.)