• Student Stories
  • June13th

    All my life money has been a worry. My mom has worked low paying jobs as a sales clerk; my dad was rarely home and they divorced when I was 16. Since then, it has been my brother, my mother and me. There have been many months when we have gone without electricity and water, but I made it through those hard times knowing that I wanted to do something great. I didn’t want to struggle daily with money.

    I learned when I was a senior in high school that there was financial aid available for college, and I applied for almost every college in Tennessee, along with some in other states. When I was accepted into Tusculum College, I was so excited. I’d gone on a college tour the summer before and had fallen in love with it–it was my dream school! But I was deeply worried that I wouldn’t qualify for any scholarships or grants. I filled out my FAFSA and was thrilled when I got the letter from telling me I’d been awarded scholarships and grants that covered most of my tuition. I qualified for a few loans as well, and decided to accept them; I have confidence that I will find a good job after graduation.

    I’m currently a sophomore and love every minute of college. More importantly, I know that I want to continue beyond college. I plan on going to graduate school to become a college professor. I love helping other people and I love literature and writing, so I’ve decided to combine my loves. If I didn’t have financial aid, I know I wouldn’t be in college; I would probably be working a dead-end job.

  • June5th

    I am the head of a single parent household and have three daughters; the Pell Grant has allowed me to receive an associate’s degree from Central Piedmont Community College and continue on to a University of North Carolina, Charlotte for my bachelor’s degree. My education has allowed me raise my children without the aid of public assistance and support my children financially. I have also been able to teach my children the importance of an education.

    My eldest child earned her bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University and joined the workforce with the help of Pell grants, scholarships and small loans; as my middle child prepares for high school graduation, she anticipates attending a four-year university like her sister. She, too, will need the help of Pell grants to make her dream of higher education possible. Even though it may be possible for my children to attend college on loans, having the assistance of the Pell Grant simply makes college more affordable for our family. Without grants and loans, my family would not be able to pursue higher education.

  • May31st

    My name is Shawn McClain, and I have been a student at Buena Vista University for half a year now. Previous to BVU, I attended Des Moines Area Community College and received two associates degrees in business administration. I am now working on my bachelor’s, with a double major in business administration and business management, and a minor in human resource management.

    My education has been dependent on scholarships and financial aid. Thanks to DMACC and their great scholarship program, along with scholarships I received from the Exira High School, I did not have to fund my education at DMACC with any loans. But BVU has a higher tuition cost, which has forced me to fund my education through federal student loans. This year has been the first time I have ever received federal aid, and it has been a tremendous help. I received an Iowa Education Grant, which was a great relief to the burden of being in debt.

    I hope the government will continue to expand state and federal aid to students, because a college education is very important in the world today. With the help of these sources of aid to students, it will ensure a bright future without the stress of paying the high cost of student loans.

  • May15th

    During high school there was no other option: I was going to college. But my dreams were thrown into confusion during my junior year of high school, when my father was laid off. With him being the only working person in the house, my college dreams began to slip away. But I stayed determined and hopeful that he would eventually find a job, so I kept my grades up, had good ACT scores and worked my butt off.

    Entering my senior year, after all the college applications were filled out, my dad was still jobless and the reality of college slipped further and further away. My mom told me to keep doing what I needed to do and eventually everything would work out.

    Just before graduation, my dad found a job in South Carolina, taking a 10 percent pay cut from his previous job in Wisconsin. We had a family meeting to discuss how to pay for my college–I had already made up my mind to attend Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa; I just didn’t know how.



    Financial aid forms arrived with the early estimates, using the information I’d supplied two months before my father lost his job. There was no way we could afford our estimated portion. Thankfully, we were able to discuss our “special circumstances” with financial aid counselors. Ultimately, more than half of my tuition was paid for through student aid, with programs such as the Perkins Loan, a grant from Buena Vista, Federal Work-Study, Stafford loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) and the Merit Award. Without all of these grants and loans, I would be unable to attend Buena Vista.

  • May13th

    I am currently a junior at Cornell University, working toward a bachelor’s degree in international agriculture and rural development with a concentration in social development and livelihoods.

    From the time I was a child, I knew above all else that my parents expected me to graduate high school and go to college. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would follow that path. I grew up in a comfortable, loving home, and my parents always supported me throughout high school; I was a straight A student and graduated third in my class from a small, rural high school. I was never worried about how I was going to pay for college. I entered Wells College, a small private institution in upstate New York, knowing that I would have to pay roughly $8,000 a semester after scholarships.

    Halfway through my very first semester, the economic crisis hit and my parents lost most of their savings, along with the value of their investments; as a result, they were no longer able to co-sign my college loans. For the first time ever, my ability to pay for my schooling was in jeopardy. I was forced to ask friends and family members to co-sign my loans, and it began to cross my mind that my dream of going to college might come to an abrupt end. It seemed like the only choice I had was to drop out of college or take an extended leave in order to work full time.

    At the same time, tuition at Wells increased. I started putting in nearly 30 hours each week at my part-time job, six to seven days a week, and had to contend with a one and a half hour commute. I woke up at 8:00 am every morning, went to class, then work, and then returned home and did homework until the early hours of the morning. Being constantly on the go, I oftentimes ate just an apple for dinner, or made a quick trip through a fast food drive-through window (if I had time to eat at all).

    After months of running around, trying to make enough money to support myself through college, I reached a breaking point, both physically and emotionally. Realizing that I no longer had the resources, or the interest, in staying at Wells, I began to consider other options. After a long search and probably the hardest few months of my life, I transferred to Cornell University.

    As I finish up my second semester at Cornell, I feel strongly that the wealth of financial aid available at Cornell is the only reason I have been able to make a smooth transition from Wells; student aid has been one of the few reasons I have been able to continue my college education. Being a Cornell student gives me access to extraordinary grants and an excellent financial aid office. Staff have given their all in order to make sure that I receive every penny of financial aid I deserve. I benefit from several programs: federal subsidized loans, Pell grants, institutional grants through Cornell, Federal Work-Study and various other forms of student aid; as a result, I haven’t needed to take out a single (private) loan since becoming a Cornell student, and I don’t see any reason why my personal finances will keep me from finishing my education. Having no any major out-of-pocket expenses has also allowed me to begin saving up for an eight-week internship in Central America this coming summer! For the first time since starting college, I can afford to work fewer hours each week, which allows me to focus on being a student–an accomplishment I know would not have been possible without student aid.

    Every student in need, in every institution, should be able to access the student aid and resources I have received. It is drastically important that funding for student aid budgets does not get cut.

  • May6th

    In 2006 I became a single parent, after 20 years of marriage. I had finally worked up the courage to leave an abusive relationship and begin a new life with my children. This was unfamiliar territory to me. I had not worked a full-time job for many years; I’d earned an associate’s degree after high school, but had not gone any further in my education. I quickly realized it was a totally different world compared to when I had gotten married. Back in the 1980s, I could have obtained employment in my chosen field (early childhood education and human services) and been able to earn a salary that would have supported my children and me. But I was no longer able to do that; I quickly figured out that I would need more education in order to meet my family’s needs, and I decided to enter a field that allowed me to make a difference in other people’s lives.

    I began looking into counseling degrees. I was working full-time in an office environment and was concerned about being able to make time for school and work. But I knew that I needed to begin somewhere, so I applied to Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where I live. I’d looked at other colleges but was impressed by Wilson’s willingness to work with non-traditional students. I also saw that Wilson’s environment was challenging, stimulating and supportive, all things I desired.

    As I began the process of obtaining loans, grants and scholarships for school I was blown away by the amount of money it now took to get a college degree. When I was at Harrisburg Area Community College in 1983, my parents and I were able to pay for my education ourselves. I realize there is a large difference, going from a two-year state school such as HACC to a private, four-year college like Wilson, but I began to immediately worry about how I was going to pay for my education. Working with the financial aid department at Wilson, I found I was eligible to receive some federal and state grants, and some scholarships; I made the decision to take out loans as well, to make sure I would be able to complete my education once I began school.

    I started out as a part-time student; I took three classes and worked 40 hours a week. In 2009, I lost my job and entered school full time. I was out of work for almost a year and a half, and during that time the aid I received from federal and state grants and scholarships helped offset the amount of money I will ultimately need to repay on my loans once I’ve completed school. I began working again at the end of 2010 and maintained full-time status at school in order to complete my undergraduate degree as soon as possible; I plan to continue my education and enroll in a master’s program. I am now in my last year at Wilson and will obtain my bachelor’s degree in psychology in the spring of 2012.

    When I look back over the past few years I see what a tremendous opportunity I have been given by being able to go back to school. I am filled with gratitude for this chance to make a new start. However, as I begin the process of looking for a graduate program, I am very troubled by what I’ve heard regarding aid from the government. I am a woman who struggles financially to maintain the basic needs of a family. If it wasn’t for the grants and scholarships that I have received, and continue to receive, I would never have been able to come this far in the process of completing my undergraduate work, much less even consider graduate studies. This financial aid is an essential part of why I have been able to go back to school at all.

    My education has made such a huge difference in my life, and it will make such a difference in what I am able to give back to society professionally. It is unthinkable that this opportunity might not be offered to other women and men looking to make a change in their lives. The aid that students receive from the government for education is vital to the well-being and improvement of individuals and society as a whole; I cannot conceive of the loss of human potential and the benefits to society should we take away any opportunity to seek an education.