Affordability guide by University of Michigan students goes viral

'Being Not-Rich at UM' now has spinoff at UT Austin

Students attend the first home game of the season on Sept. 9, 2017 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Students attend the first home game of the season on Sept. 9, 2017 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – The student body at the University of Michigan is as economically diverse as the city of Ann Arbor itself.

There are students whose parents buy them luxury condos to the tune of $1 million to enjoy during their degree-earning days, and there are students who work multiple jobs to make rent each month.

In response to The Affordability Guide released by the Central Student Government in January (which was taken offline due to the criticism it received for not reasonably representing low-income students), U-M public policy junior Lauren Schandevel decided to take matters into her own hands.

She launched the crowd-sourced "Being Not-Rich at UM," a Google Doc where students are encouraged to "add ideas and leave suggestions."


U-M's Ann Arbor campus (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

The introduction begins:

"So you’ve been admitted to the University of Michigan. All your life, you’ve worked hard and gotten stellar grades. This is finally the light at end of the tunnel — a vehicle for upward mobility and financial security. You never have to worry about money again. And then… you get here, and you realize that your socioeconomic status puts you at a significant disadvantage." - Being Not-Rich at UM

While anyone can leave suggestions, there is a list at the bottom of the document of approved authors who are able to make edits. This is a mix of current students and alumni, all of whom have a University of Michigan email address, with the exception of one author who has a University of Texas at Austin email.

Students UT Austin quickly followed suit after discovering Schandevel's document. They created "Being Not-Rich at UT."

Anyone can access the document, and after entering it several times, we found over 60 users were inside the document at any given time.

"This is a document in which we can be honest about the barriers lower income and first-gen students face on this campus. This is a document specifically for us and people with similar situations (although anyone with relevant information can contribute to the doc). If a campus job didn’t pay you well enough or a scholarship program was hard to navigate, share that info! It could be valuable to someone." - Being Not-Rich at UM

It has grown into a 75-page guide on all things U-M and Ann Arbor with regard to affordability, from which landlords are fair to students, to grocery-buying tips and how to get a scholarship to study abroad.

Under the "winter clothing" section, the guide reads, "There are alternatives to Canada Goose! Burlington Coat Factory has free shipping and not-terrible prices. Also consider Sierra Trading Post clearance section or Mountain Warehouse."

The guide refers to the Canada Goose revolution that appeared to take over campus this winter. Down jackets from the designer brand start at $750.

It details where students can get good jobs with fair wages on and off campus, details (in one place) how to navigate financial aid and health care and how to save money preparing for graduate school exams like the MCAT or the LSAT.

The guide is relevant for low- to middle- income Ann Arborites as well, with tried and true tips on saving money with regard to transportation, buying, cooking and preserving food, and the best shops in town to buy clothes and housing supplies. They also have a section on the best workout and concert deals.

Have a look at "Being Not-Rich" at UM here.

What are your thoughts on the document? Share your comments below.


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