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: