Student Bodies Women Who Strip to Pay for College Tuition Say the Noble End Justifies the Slinky Means

By Florence Shinkle Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 19, 1995 | Go to article overview

Student Bodies Women Who Strip to Pay for College Tuition Say the Noble End Justifies the Slinky Means


Florence Shinkle Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


THOSE polished flank is that in the smoky circle of stage light? It's Heavenly Heidi, Heidi Mattson, another underfunded student working her way through college, paying for anatomy class via a class anatomy.

Mattson earned a good part of the $22,000 annual tuition at Ivy League Brown University in Providence, R.I., through employment as a stripper at a club called the Foxy Lady. Table dances for $10, oily tussles with customers for bids of up to $400 - those earnings mounted up a lot faster than her previous student job at the campus bookstore.

Mattson, now 27, got accepted to Brown in 1985 after graduating as valedictorian of her high school class in Bucksport, Maine. She was awarded an $8,000 scholarship and expected to make up the difference via student loans, family help and work.

The pre-figured family contribution - $3,000 - was a figment of Brown's imagination, Mattson maintains. "I'm the third of four. My family's idea of helping me out is to send me a round of welfare cheese."

Meanwhile, various promised grant packages got delayed in Brown's profoundly indifferent scholastic aid bureaucracy. The decent-tipping waitress jobs were already sewn up. It was sink or slink.

Then, with good ol' American enterprise, she wrote a book about the bump and grind - "Ivy League Stripper" (Arcade, $21) - and collected the usual tide of talk-show invitations and mini-series offers.

But here Mattson's saga takes a bright new twist.

Stepping outside the psychological tradition of disenchanted innocence and feminist indignation, Mattson pronounces her years at the Foxy Lady "fun . . . an adventure. . . . It keeps you in great shape."

Worse, she defends the whole exploitive scene - men ogling girls, girls manipulating men for money - as a time-honored, productive social arrangement, as important to civilization as Rousseau's social contract, and a perfectly legitimate line of work.

"Everything else is sold with sex," she points out. "Why not use it to pay for school?"

In fact, cheesecake has been underpinning higher education longer than the federal loan program, which only began in 1966.

Although Brown University's vice president of community affairs has been quoted as declaring huffily that "no one has to strip to get through Brown," the financial struggle for a student whose family is in that underfunded limbo between the indigent and the middle class is increasingly severe.

According to an Aug. 11 article in the Wall Street Journal, borrowing under federal student loan programs rose 57 percent between 1992 and 1994, after the curtailment of government grant programs. At 22, a student could graduate with loans of $50,000 - which, if paid back in 10 years at 8 percent, meant payments of $650 a month. The borrowing "affects future career choices and aspirations for advanced degrees," said a spokesman for the American Council of Education. With income prospects dicey in almost all careers now, the indebtedness could be a huge burden later.

The alternative for students is to pay more as they go. But jobs like cleaning, selling, delivering - those are for base wages. …

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