I Live In A Van Down By Duke University (Re-Post)
Author’s Note: I’ve re-posted this article for your reading pleasure as I am on vacation.
Duke University grad student Ken Ilgunas wrote a sublime piece in Salon.com about his own grand social experiment: He currently (until someone busts him after reading his article) lives in his van in a campus parking lot. Ilgunas went the standard student-loan route for his undergrad degree and hated the resulting loss of freedom he dealt with while working to pay it all off. For grad school at Duke, he’s decided to borrow nothing and graduate owing no one.
In order to pull that off at Duke, home of the $37,000/year tuition special, it becomes necessary to live a severely frugal existence. Seriously: he’s got a van, a few items of clothing, a single-burner camp stove, a sleeping bag, car insurance, and a lot of powdered milk, oatmeal, spaghetti and peanut butter.
From the article:
The more money I had borrowed, I came to realize, the more freedom I had surrendered. Yet, I still considered my education — as costly as it was — to be priceless. So now, motivated to go back to school yet determined not to go back into debt, I had to think outside the box. Or, as Henry David Thoreau might suggest, inside one.
…And so: I decided to buy a van. Though I had never lived in one, I knew I had the personality for it. I had a penchant for rugged living, a sixth sense for cheapness, and an unequaled tolerance for squalor. More…
Have you ever walked around Duke? I lived in Durham for a short while, and spent some non-academic time wandering the campus. Everyone looks very well taken care of. Stanford kids look good, too, but Duke’s population brings it to a shinier level. Which is to say I doubt Mr. Ilgunas blends.
It would be considered a noble and an excellent statement to live in a van while attending Evergreen. You would be applauded and everyone would bring you food and other special perks. (Except for me; I would bring you bleach and wet wipes.) But van living at Duke University may not go over too well.
Regardless of the outcome, I’m rooting for him. I’m hoping he pulls off graduate school minus the staggering debt, and I hope his article makes the rounds and wakes the powers that be the hell up as to the vile and nonsensical pile of money a human seeking higher education must fork over so as to get through the ivory gates.
Posted by Alexa Harrington