Luisa graduation University of Texas, Austin

The financial burdens of college

I always knew I wanted to work towards a college degree. I was fortunate to have mentors who guided me through the process. Kathy James, a dear friend of the family, sat with my parents at the kitchen table one morning and went through all the paperwork and other things my parents should consider to help me go to college. My parents were immigrants; they had no idea that the moment a child is born, parents in the United States start putting away money for their child’s college education. Not doing that could limit a kid’s future. Both worked hard but sacrificed higher paychecks for coaching. Their impact on the community is evident in the number of kids who have kept in touch with them over the years. I was grateful for the opportunity to study at the University of Texas at Austin; however, the cost became unbearable for our family after a year. There were plenty of hurdles, and they almost broke me. I dropped out, worked full-time, and paid my way through college to finish my degree. This is not the process I wish upon anyone, and we can do better. In Georgia, we have the HOPE scholarship; a program originally intended to make college more financially accessible to students striving for a college degree. However, this program has slowly become a scholarship program for academic success. I wouldn’t have benefitted from the HOPE scholarship as it is now. My high school grades weren’t the best. In my junior year of high school, we moved back to Little Rock, Arkansas, from Spain, where we had lived for four and a half years. I spoke English like an exchange student and was placed in classes accordingly. Standards set to benefit those who set the standards could have determined my future. I believe that financial circumstances should not exclude a student from pursuing an education. We can write that policy; we just need to elect leaders who will fight for policies that ensure equitable access to education and success. Let’s work together to do better.

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