Hard Lessons in Education Funding

A student's path to dream college filled with roadblocks

She was right. She would not be able to return to Howard in January 2008 because her mother could not assist with paying off the debt and the money from her job only covered the cost of art supplies required for her classes. So while trying to finish the semester at Howard (No. 2 on Black Enterprise’s Top 50 Colleges for African Americans list), Jackson sought funding to attend a school back home in Ohio.

The debt that was preventing her from returning to Howard would also be a roadblock to transferring to another four-year college because Howard would not release her transcripts until she paid the balance.

Now, with the help of a local grant, Jackson attends Antonelli Community College in Cincinnati where she has a 3.7 GPA. She is still considered a student at Howard and can return as soon as her debt is paid in full. So she works 30 to 40 hours a week at T.J. Maxx, an apparel retailer, with a goal to return to school for the winter semester in 2010.

Jackson is not alone. Low-income, first generation students make up 24% of the undergraduate population and after six years 43% leave college without earning their degrees, the Pell Institute reports. The mean amount of unmet need for these students is nearly $6,000 before loans.

For the 2009-2010 academic year, Howard University awarded a total of $2 million to 406 students for a new need-based grant for low-income students. “We estimate that we will award close to 1,000 students prior to the start of the fall semester,” says a Howard spokesperson.

Jackson is ineligible for this grant also.

Sometimes she gets angry or sad when she thinks about her situation, but she says she isn’t going to let it all get to her. She has started a wearable art clothing line called CopyNPaste to satisfy her passion for art. She is also producing a fashion show for it May 23 and plans to invite college fashion designers from around the country. “Hopefully, it will be another source of income for me. I tell myself that one day I’ll be back at Howard” she says.

Previously in the series:

HBCU Financial Forecast: Part I

HBCU Students Seek More Avenues for Funding

Pages: 1 2

  • Mark H

    I know how hard it is out there. I would like to go to grad school but with grants drying up. It is becoming harder to find a way to finance my education which in my opinion is a very important part of any young persons personal development.I used to hear that you cannot put a price on a good education but it seems that some institutions do and its sad that many young people are in serious debt because of it.

  • Calvin J. Adolph

    When I read about Ms. Jackson’s story, I felt like I was reliving the nightmare all over again. I first set foot on Howard’s campus in fall 1988, fresh out of high school. Despite the disbelief that I wouldn’t be admitted (even by a church member of mine), I looked forward to attending my dream school on a 4-year Army ROTC scholarship and studying Electrical Engineering. I had never been to D.C. before, but considered no other institution to attend despite being heavily recruited by other HBCUs. Upon arrival, I was informed that I had received a conditional scholarship and would have to replace two teeth that I had removed to keep the scholarship. Of course the dental school was already full of appointments going into the next semester and I could not afford to see a dentist in D.C. My family back in Louisiana could not help with the situation because all funds had been exhausted just to get me there. I had no other choice than to return home at the end of the semester. Like Ms. Jackson, I am still considered a student and have a balance remaining of over $3500. Since then I have served in the United States Navy and the Louisiana Army National Guard. I am currently attending Baton Rouge Community College where I will graduate this December with an Associate Degrees in General Studies, Liberal Arts; an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts; a Certificate in Business Technology; and a Certificate in General Studies. I am currently paying for my education out of my own pocket. I, too, wish that I could return to Howard, a place where I made lots of good friends, met prominent figures like Jesse Jackson (during his presidential campaign), and learned from some of the best professors in the world; but after starting a family I realize that it is easier said than done. As a first generation college student, I hope that one day this country will truly value educating (and funding that education) its citizens so that we all could share in the American dream.

  • JC

    I too am in the same situation as Miss Jackson & Calvin…my question is did you have to start over with your classes? Or was the college you went to afterwards able to utilize your unofficial transcripts? Thanks for your reply.

    • Rodrigo

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  • carlyn ashford

    Please do not give up on your education. Contact your financial counselor for assistance. Visit the local library and keep studying. God will make a way for. Do not forget to go back and help in your community.

    Many Blessings,
    Don’t Give Up!

  • carlyn ashford

    Don’t give up on your education !
    God will make a way.

  • Calvin J. Adolph


    I don’t know how Miss Jackson handled her situation, but as for me I did not list Howard on my application. If I had, the current institution would have required an official transcript and I would have had to pay back my outstanding balance. I am certain that when you apply for financial aid, all of your previous history will then be displayed. I have fortunately been able to pay my tuition out of pocket only because my current college offers deferred payment which allows me to pay tuition over the course of the semester. My college accepted credits for classes taken while in the military as well as based on my enlisted rank. Community colleges tend to be more relaxed when you enroll and are more affordable. I recommend them as a way to earn college credits for the first two years and possibly a degree. Then you can transfer to the four year college of your choice with upperclassmen status and hopefully some funds in case grants and scholarships are not available. I hope this helps you.

  • Ms. Jackson, congratulations on your tenacity, first of all. Many would simply have given up by now, in pursuit of their dream. I am glad that Black Enterprise is publishing the article, it highlights the fact that you are not alone!

    The struggle continues!

    God Bless,
    Tony Daniel
    Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • Sharita Clark

    Ms. Jackson,

    I am also the first child of my parents to attend college and I started at 29 and it has been a struggle. I work a fulltime job and I’m also a fulltime student. I commend you for not giving up on your dream despite getting into the school of your dreams. I too wanted to attend a particular university but I did my research and realized that community college was the best choice. I say this because I earned a 3.75 GPA and to my surpise was awarded an additional $800 to my Pell Grant package. This awarded was a great help and I plan to use it to attend for the summer session. Many obstacles may come your way but every struggle makes you stronger and more focused to achieve your goal. I want to thank you for story and I wish you conintued sucess.

  • There is obviously a lot to learn about this. I {think|believe|suppose|guess|recollect} you {made|established|produced} some {good|serious|strong|respectable|genuine|well-thought-of} points. {This blog sure has some great information and it has taught me at night in this crazy world of ours. Again THANK YOU

    Thanks so much.. rlealy appreciate the kind words. God deserves all the glory. Also, its kinda cool to get the award during UST’s 400th Year!