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Sun Dec 23, 2012, 11:41 AM

For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall


GALVESTON, Tex. — Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.

“I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor.

Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.”

Low-income strivers face uphill climbs, especially at Ball High School, where a third of the girls’ class failed to graduate on schedule. But by the time the triplets donned mortarboards in the class of 2008, their story seemed to validate the promise of education as the great equalizer.


Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.



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Reply For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall (Original post)
n2doc Dec 2012 OP
duffyduff Dec 2012 #1
DollarBillHines Dec 2012 #3
MountainLaurel Dec 2012 #2
Mass Dec 2012 #4
mbperrin Dec 2012 #5

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:22 PM

1. I am convinced


the economic elite have pushed to make college unaffordable for the vast majority of people unless they go into tons of debt in order to weed people out of upward mobility.

I have long felt this way about homeownership; prices of houses are still way out of whack compared to the average person's income. Once again, the economic elite benefits from people going into a ton of debt. At the rate things are going, all but a tiny minority of people will be renters, with few ever owning their homes outright.

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Response to duffyduff (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 05:41 PM

3. And it is going to get a lot worse.

That train is picking up speed at an exponential pace.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 02:40 PM

2. This one hit me hard

“The method that was used in her case was very standard methodology,” said J. Lynn Zimmerman, the senior vice provost who oversees financial aid. “I think that what’s unusual is that she really didn’t advocate for herself or ask for any kind of review. If she or her mother would have provided any additional information it would have triggered a conversation.”

The assumption that this student or her mother would know that they had recourse is galling -- this is a completely new world for them, with so much unspoken information about how the process works. Not to mention the general attitudes, that authorities such as a university financial aid office are not to be questioned. To quote a friend, the real problem is "The assumption that everybody knows how navigate the financial aid system, and other obstacles to college success that don't get talked about."

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 01:29 PM

4. Nobody should ask an 18 year old this type of commitment,. This is ridiculous.

Most of them. rich or poor. do not have the knowledge to do so. The only difference is that the rich one has parents to help him when something like that happens.

We need to change the entire system and make colleges free or nearly free.

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Response to Mass (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 04:18 PM

5. Yes, four years of college should be included in free and appropriate education

for every student. And I'm including trade schools and so under that broad umbrella.

I was the first person in my family to graduate high school. I was offered a full ride scholarship to Texas A&M, which I took. I married during my sophomore year, but my spouse did not have a scholarship, so we both worked.

At the end of 4 years, I was 12 hours short of a degree, and I needed $525 for another semester of school, an impossible sum. My parents couldn't help - they were 8th grade dropouts, scraping by.

I did not know that student loans existed. I could have borrowed it from the school loan fund, but I had no schema for that. I dropped out. 20 years later, my local university did an outreach to those with incomplete degrees from anywhere. These specialists arranged my schedule, did the transfer of credit, arranged a student loan, and I finished my degree that spring and began teaching.

Since then, I have earned a Master's in education, and I teach in a large high school where 50% of the population has parents who never finished high school and where 85% qualify for free and reduced lunch. I still work with the community outreach for UT-Permian Basin, the folks who helped me, to help my own students.

Great program, and for those with no background, like me, an absolute godsend. My experience is that it's never the coursework that keeps students from finishing college, it's the lack of funding, time management, prioritizing, and just not taking one step at a time that kills.

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