Even “Glease” Doesn’t “Go Together” With Paying for College

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He didn't go to beauty school, but could Mike Chang be a dropout?

He didn’t go to beauty school, but could Mike Chang be a dropout?

On Glee, “glease” is the word (though it’s not really a word at all).

But off the show, people have used a different word to describe the SALT Glee project: misguided.


Last month, we took our mission to the gleeks on Reddit. For fans of a show about tolerance, they all didn’t necessarily accept paying for college as a valuable plot (“pretty much the most boring thing ever,” one said).

After weathering that slushie to the face, I thought I’d list actual plots worthy of someone crying “snooze” (the show did spend half a season on a fake pregnancy…). However, I didn’t want to stoop to Sue Sylvester territory.

Instead, I accept that some won’t want tuition talk on the show—but that won’t stop me from trying to make it happen. And since Glee went retro with Grease, it seemed like the perfect time to look back at this season’s missed opportunities for financial aid-themed songs.


How the show used it: As an audition for members of the glee club to become “the new Rachel.”

How they could have used it: As a plea tothefinancial aid office.

One thing students sometimes don’t know is that they can negotiate financial aid awards. If unforeseen events take place after an award is calculated, students may be eligible for additional aid.

It sounds odd to pair this topic with an ode to “ripped jeans” and “hair flowing”, but Rachel could make it work as a slowed-down power ballad. Let’s say one of her dads lost his job; she could meet the financial aid officer, think getting more money seems “crazy,” and sit by the phone hoping for a call to keep her in school. (Note: this still wouldn’t be the most forced version of “Call Me, Maybe.”)


How the show used it: As Jake and Kitty’s audition for Grease.

How they could have used it: To start a conversation between parents and their kids about paying for school.

It’s never easy for families to discuss money—but everybody should talk about it. This season, Glee introduced the coolest parent since Burt Hummel: Marley’s lunch-lady mom. We already know their family struggles with money (they change the tags in her Wal-Mart sweaters). Why not escalate those issues to paying for college?

It could “start with a whisper” that Marley could never afford school; then her mom could detail the options (scholarships, Pell grants) to help them. Fortunately, Glee may get another shot at this one: “Little Talks” is gaining radio airplay, meaning it will probably end up in a future episode.


How the show used it: As it originally appeared in Grease.

How the show could have used it: As an actual lesson about dropping out of school.

I admit it: The two songs above require some shoehorning to fit plot points. But “Beauty School Dropout”? This would have been the perfect opportunity to talk about the responsibilities of student loan borrowers.

When someone drops out of school, any money they borrowed is still due in full. Many borrowers don’t understand this—and end up in default. Couldn’t one last night’s returning college students have dropped out of school?

Truth be told, I’m holding out hope that this story could still happen: Does anyone else think Mike Chang took an awful lot of time off to choreograph a high school’s musical? Maybe Glee and paying for school could go together after all.

How would you update Glee’s songs this season to make them about financial aid? Share them in the comments. 

(Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

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  1. Glenn Hall November 16, 2012 / 1:17 pm

    The whole school is at an assembley listening to Miss Pillsbury talk about applying for scholarships and looking at handouts describing the scholarships. Suddenly the Glee Club gets up one by one and sings “You’re The One That I Want” to the “scholarships” (handouts). The whole school starts clapping along, and the place goes wild because now the students can imagine getting some money to help pay for college!

    • Ryan Lane November 16, 2012 / 2:15 pm

      As always, Glenn, your brilliant ideas give me chills. (Whether or not they’re multiplying, I can’t say.)

  2. Josie November 19, 2012 / 11:29 am

    As financial aid professionals, we care about ‘scholarships’ ‘Pell Grants’ and ‘Student Loans,’ but students don’t generally care about specifics. All they want is the ‘dream.’

    In a show like Glee, it sometimes feels like the pop stars of High School always go to their performance school of choice… but we all know better.

    What would REALLY give me chills would be this:
    The ‘Rachel like’ character – with stars in her eyes – auditions at her favorite school and gets in because of her talent… but she discovers that her hopes are crushed when her family tells her she can’t afford it. She never thought about that part.

    Some of her other friends audition at places too, and they get in as well – but they CAN afford it. So the ‘Rachel’ character is left out – feeling outcast, frustrated, and a failure.

    The sudden realization of the potential loss of her dream would give the ‘Rachel’ character an incentive to fight! To look for as much financial aid as she could. And then you get to watch the journey unfold. She is suddenly a hero to root for – the underdog.

    She could do all the research herself, or a mentor could come into her life to show her what she needs to do.

    The subject of financial aid doesn’t have to be boring. It’s your FUTURE! It’s your dreams, your hopes, your journey – the people you meet. The fact that college is not guaranteed in this country means that you have to be willing to fight, learn, work hard, and never give up. All things we can eventually teach to our children.

    I’m tired of TV shows that make ‘dreams’ seem so easy to achieve.

    If Glee ever talks about this issue, it needs to be more than a catchy tune… It needs to be a reality check.

    • Ryan Lane November 19, 2012 / 1:51 pm

      Preach on, Josie! Thanks!

      • Josie November 19, 2012 / 3:14 pm

        You can tell that this is a subject I think about… A LOT. lol

        • Ryan Lane November 19, 2012 / 3:23 pm

          Glad I’m not the only one (and glad to have you on our side too!).

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