Paying Tuition Part 1
It was the winter term of senior year. Students were fresh back from Christmas break and seniors were getting their resumes ready for interviews with potential employers. It was an exciting time for the seniors on campus. While at home on the break Shannon’s family received bad news. Just after the New Year rang in her father’s company had a massive layoff and, as a result, finances were tight. Her father and mother had to sit down with her and let her know that paying tuition for her final term of senior year was just not possible.
No, no, no she thought. This wasn’t happening. Employers demanded a bachelor’s degree at the very least to extend an employment offer. Being so close to graduation and not having the tuition money to pay for that last term was driving her crazy.
Back on campus everything seemed normal. Students were going to classes and the seniors were beginning to interview. As a mechanical engineering student Shannon was confident she’d get an interview and an offer. Her advisor had told her frankly that female graduates in the engineering department would almost certainly be getting the best of possible offers as companies tried to increase the percentage of women in their engineering ranks.
But now Shannon had a problem. How was she going to pay for that last term that would bring in the job offer she desperately wanted?
As she walked into her Machine Dynamics I class, she knew time was running out. She needed to register for the final term and that meant she needed money. Walking down the hallway to the classroom she noticed a woman with red hair ahead of her. She felt she recognized her but couldn’t quite put a name to at the moment. As she got closer to the room and the person a shock went through her mind as she finally realized it was her best friend Casey. But it was certainly not the Casey she’d known for the last four years. This Casey was a whole new person.
“Casey, you cut your hair!” Shannon fairly squealed. Casey immediately looked worried. “Do you like it,” she asked? Casey’s normally bra strap length red hair was now a truly short faded spikey pixie. It was a fade cut close to her head with no sideburns and well above her ears while fading to nothing at the neck and sides. “I do, I really do. But this is such a change and you never mentioned you were thinking of cutting it off.” Casey’s face broke into a huge smile. “Thanks” she said, “I don’t have enough time to tell you before we start this class, but we can talk once it’s finished.”
All Shannon could think of during the class was what could have made Casey cut off her hair. It was a beautiful shade of red and fell straight down between her shoulders. It was the envy of many women. At 5’6” and less than 120 pounds Casey had a great body and she was very cute and had more than her share of boyfriends. Shannon imagined she and her boyfriend of the last term must have had a fight and broke up with the haircut being the result. She had just about convinced herself this was the case when the class ended, and she and Casey walked out of the classroom.
Shannon’s own natural ash blonde hair was straight, very thick and longer than bra length coming to the small of her back. She could not ever imagine cutting it. At almost 5’10 and 125 Shannon was also a beauty but refused to believe it. The light color blonde hair matched her deep blue eyes perfectly and she was lucky enough to have her mother’s flawless skin. She was not an engineering nerd by anyone’s estimate, Shannon had just never given any thought to her appearance and excelled in the sciences. She took her looks for granted and rarely used makeup or did anything with her hair except an occasional trip to whatever salon was available for a quick trim. As a result, her hair was never the same way twice, one day in a ponytail, another behind her ears, another parted on one side or the other and just behind her back but mostly she just wanted to change things day to day.
They walked back to the Student Commons area as they talked. As they sat down at one of the tables in the lounge, they began their chat in earnest. “So why the big change,” Shannon asked. Casey was a little evasive at first. “I just needed to do something different,” she said. “But this is so out of the park different Case. Your hair was gorgeous. And you went and got it all cut off. Aren’t you afraid of making such a big change just as we start interviewing for jobs?” At this Casey started crying. “That’s what I’m afraid of too and my parents said the same thing at Christmas.” Shannon realized she had stepped over the line and had to give Casey some reassurance.
“I didn’t mean it like it came out Case. I’m sorry. It’s just such a big change and it shocked me is all. I really do like it and it makes your eyes pop out. I also never noticed you have a very graceful neck too. I didn’t realize how much of you was hiding behind that hair and now I think I’m seeing a whole new and improved Casey here.” Casey looked at Shannon and said “thanks Shannon. That means a lot. It wasn’t so much a spur of the moment thing. I needed some money fast and happened to be looking at the bulletin board here in the Commons and there was a notice saying they paid for women to cut their hair. I took one of the numbers off the card and gave them a call and the next thing I know is I’m in a barber chair getting my hair cut and they paid me.”
Shannon was stunned. She had never thought about having hair as an item to trade. This could be a way to pay for her final term but getting her hair cut was not something she had ever contemplated. She loved her long hair and cutting it off for money was not something she saw for herself. She immediately dismissed the thought while she and Casey finished their chat and the possibilities of job interviews coming up.
A week before the term ended her advisor contacted her saying he had a possible interview for her and wanted to go over the particulars of the company with her. When they met, her advisor told her the company was an aerospace startup with a new contract with one of the large defense firms and as a result they were expanding. They particularly wanted to speak with women Mechanical Engineering students who were graduating in May. Shannon got excited, this sounded like the perfect opportunity but then her face fell. “What’s the matter Shannon? This would be perfect for you. You’d be getting in on the ground floor of a company with great possibilities,” her advisor said. “I’m having a problem with finances right now and have been putting off registering for the final term because of that,” she said. “Well, that is a problem,” he said. “These guys are conducting initial interviews now with final interviews and offers around Mid-April right before graduation. Without a degree you have no chance.” They talked of other options but even with her high GPA of 3.6, without a degree in hand she had no options at all.
Shannon left the advisor’s office and went off to class. Along the way she noticed Casey going in the same direction. As they walked Casey told her she was asked to interview for the same aerospace company her advisor had spoken about. Shannon felt like she needed something, anything to finish her final term. She blurted out “Casey, where was that number for the haircut you had?” Casey looked at Shannon like she had just grown a new hole on her head. “Shannon, you need to think about this. You are gorgeous and cutting off your hair will mean totally changing how you look.” Desperate, Shannon said, “Casey, I need money for tuition. How much did they pay for your haircut?”
Casey stopped and thought about how to tell Shannon the truth. “Shannon, they pay based on several factors. One, you must have a lot of hair for them to cut. Your hair is already longer than mine was so that’s not a problem. Two, the shorter you go the more they pay. So, the length of the cut means you need to be comfortable with a pretty severe cut. At least as short as mine. Three, the better looking you are the more they pay. You’re hair is nicer than mine and honestly, you are drop dead gorgeous. They paid me $2,000 for this cut. At first, I hated it but now I kind of like it. Do you remember Jeff Allen from our Thermo Dynamics class?” Shannon nodded her head yes. “Well, Jeff and I have been dating this term. Apparently, he really likes the new short haired me. Who’d a thought, huh?”
Then Casey brought up the subject Shannon had never given a thought. “What’s Mark going to say if you cut your hair off?” Mark and Shannon had been dating for several years and everyone in the department thought they’d get married once they graduated. Shannon unconsciously fingered her long blonde hair as if to keep it firmly attached to her head. “Well, if Mark has a problem with whatever I do then that’s his problem. I’ll do whatever I want with it,” she said. In reality, she knew cutting it off was still not on her radar. But the seed of necessity had been planted.
Later that afternoon Shannon got a text from her advisor “Nebula Space wants to interview you Monday at 9AM. Can you make it?” She immediately texted back “Yes, I’ll be there.” She texted Casey with the news and received a text back saying, “I have an interview with them on Monday too. Good luck to us both.” Things were going according to Hoyle until Shannon remembered she needed to register by Friday for the final term and the school demanded full payment by the first week of the term. Shannon was torn on what to do. She just had to earn $3,500 and she had no good ideas on how to get it.
Monday morning arrived with Shannon feeling a little better. Right now, she needed to do well on the initial job interview. She arrived in plenty of time and the interviewer told her about Nebula and their requirements. They were looking for three new hires all in structural dynamics and they were looking for a fresh approach from whoever they hired. He hinted she definitely had what they were looking for and wanted to speak with her again after the final term started.
As she left the interview she ran into Casey. “How’d it go?” Casey asked. “I think it went well and they want to see me again in a few weeks,” Shannon said. Then Casey asked the all important question. “Have you decided on what you’re going to do with your hair?” Shannon replied, “Not yet. I still haven’t mentioned anything to Mark either.” Casey then asked, “what do you think he’ll do?” Looking a little uneasy Shannon replied “Well, I suppose I’ll find out if it’s me he likes or my hair if I decide to get it cut.” They talked about the questions the recruiter asked and what Nebula was looking for as far as engineering talent. Casey thanked Shannon for the heads up and started to leave for her interview. Shannon smiled and wished Casey the best of luck on her interview.
Shannon registered for the final term and received a notice via email that the school needed $3,500 for tuition by the end of the first week of class or all classes she had registered for would be cancelled. She needed the money in the next 3 weeks. She thought of Casey again and how Casey told her she got $2,000. Where would she come up with the remaining $1,500? She walked over to the Commons area and looked on the bulletin board for the card Casey had told her about. There it was! Apparently, several other students had also taken notice as there were only 2 tabs left with the number to call on them. She looked around to make sure no one was watching and quickly took one of those tabs and stuck it in her pocket.
Going back to her apartment she thought of nothing else but the possibility of losing her hair. She had never had hair shorter than her shoulders in her life. Anything shorter than that would be traumatic and maybe even humiliating. Thinking of what Casey had told her she thought there may be the possibility of her having to cut it shorter than the faded pixie Casey now sported. How much shorter she couldn’t imagine other than shaving it all off. She decided that no matter how much she needed tuition money, shaving it off was in no way going to happen.
As she threw her bags on the couch she reached into her pocket for her phone and the tab of paper with the now dreaded number on it. She nervously dialed and it was immediately answered by a professional female voice saying, “It’s All About You, how may I help you?” Shannon managed to stumble out, “I found a notice on the student board at the college and want to know more about your hair cut offer.” The voice said, “can we get you in for a consultation and we can go from there?” They agreed to a 3:30 meeting Friday afternoon and the voice provided directions to the shop.
Now she had another problem to deal with. She and Mark had a date Thursday evening and she wondered how or if she ought to break the news to him. She finally decided she needed to let him know there was a possibility of her getting a pretty short haircut. As they walked into her apartment after seeing a movie that Shannon would never remember, Mark asked “what’s going on Shannon? You’ve been in a trance all night.” She decided she needed to tell him her problems, all of them. Mark looked at her in disbelief. “You’re thinking of cutting off your hair to get tuition money? That’s crazy Shannon. I’d hate to see you like that and in fact I can’t imagine you looking like that. I’m not sure I even know you right now.” Seeing that Mark was not going to be at all supportive or even help to come up with some money that might keep her hair on her head Shannon got defensive. “What do you mean? I need money to pay my tuition bill and if selling my hair will make that happen then so be it. It’s my hair, nobody else’s and if I want to get it cut it’s on me and nobody else.” Mark got angrier, “Shannon, I can’t believe you are even thinking about this. I love your hair the way it is and can’t see myself with a girlfriend or something more lasting than a girlfriend with a butch look.” At that Shannon exploded. “Then you better get out of here. Nobody tells me what to do with my looks and if any style I come up with doesn’t meet with your standards then we are through.” Mark got up and stormed out of the apartment leaving a shattered Shannon behind. He also didn’t know their fight had cleared another of Shannon’s obstacles to getting her hair cut. With Mark out of the picture Shannon had no practical reason not to do whatever she needed in order to earn her tuition money fast.
On Friday Shannon found the shop with no problems. It was located in a newer strip mall just off campus. As she walked in, she noticed it was simply a photography studio and wondered if this was the right place. She had expected it to be a hair salon of some kind although Casey had been evasive about everything except the end result of a haircut.
The receptionist looked up and said, “you must be Shannon for the 3:30 consult, right?” Shannon nodded her head yes and was immediately escorted back to another office with a woman sitting at a desk. This was another unexpected development. Casey hadn’t mentioned either a photography studio or that it was a woman doing the business. What was going on here, she wondered
The woman stood up from her desk and extended her hand saying “hi, I’m Grace and I own the studio. Take a seat. How can we help?” Shannon answered, “I have a friend who got her hair cut here last term and that you paid for her hair to be cut. She didn’t go into any more detail than that. So, I wondered what my hair might be worth.” Grace explained, “we do haircut videos and sell them on the internet. In return we pay our models a fee based on multiple features. In your case depending on how short and daring you might be we could offer you a figure you might like.” Intrigued, Shannon then asked, “what are we looking at for fees?”
Grace looked at Shannon and said “you have all the features we are looking for in our models. You are very pretty; your hair is beautiful and if we can agree on a length that suits us both you can walk out of here with a nice check.” She continued, “our fees are based on how short we go. That’s what our clientele is looking for, the shorter you go the more they like it and the more we pay the model. For you to lose 10 inches we pay $500.” Thinking of what she needed to cover the tuition bill Shannon broke in “that’s not enough for me to cut my hair.” Grace smiled and said “if we go to a chin length bob then we pay another $500. For a longer lady’s short cut, we go $1,500 and for spiky faded pixies for you we can go $2,500.” Shannon sat there surprised. A faded pixie would get her $500 more than Casey but not the $3,500 she needed. “Can you go higher?” she asked. Grace replied, “we can but if we go higher that means more hair has to come off.” Fearing Grace was going to tell her to shave her head but knowing she needed to end these negotiations quickly before her nerve left her completely Shannon said, “what’s your best offer?”
End Part One