[StBernard] Expanding higher ed access for low income students

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu May 17 19:35:27 EDT 2007


While not trying to expand too far on my past, I was one of these lower
income people in 1990 when I graduated from school. My parents weren't
educated either, so I didn't know a lot about grants, loans, TOPS wasn't
invented yet (I think), etc. So, come Dec. 1989, I was finished school and
went to work while I waited for graduation. No counselors called to advise
me of my options or make an appointment for me to discuss them. Due to a
death of my grandfather in 1988, I lost 3 credits in my sophomore year,
putting me a 1/2 year behind. Guess what, I took a couple of years off from
school to make money and save for college, because I thought that was my
only option. Well, I ended up getting married and having my daughter. While
she has been one of the best things for me, it forced me to live my life
backwards. I finally went back to school in 2001 and graduated in 2004, when
I started work on my Master's, which Katrina washed away, including all of
my research.

Let me spout a few things here, what many people don't realize is that
over 85% (at least prior to 2005) of people receiving public assistance in
the US are white, Hispanics may be rising but not to the proportions of
whites. While I truly believe in the American dream and if you work hard you
can make it, it doesn't always happen that way. What you, and many like you,
don't realize is that there is a huge number of Louisianaians who live in
VERY rural areas. Many of those people take a large proportion of what they
live on from the land, which by the way was destroyed by Katrina and or
Rita. These STATE options are sometimes the first time some high schoolers
will have heard of "grants" for college due to local papers. Oh yeah, and
one more thing, I graduated high school with barely a 1.5 average- no
scholarship here, but had a 28 on the ACT. I graduated from UNO with a 3.2
average carrying a minimum of 16 credits hours a semester with two jobs and
my daughter. I went on to work for the state, got selected and put on
Walter's advisory counsel, represented Walter at a few state meetings, and
wrote a bill with Nita Hutter and went to the state capitol to argue it
through. AM I the exception, I don't think so, because my state job was at
UNO, where I talked to students daily who were all fighting to just stay in
school so they didn't end up in dead end jobs like there parents. FASFA
barely covered tuition, some didn't qualify for TOPS as you so aptly put it,
because many of these kids were working through high school and maintained
mediocre at best grades. Books on average, for me per semester, were about
$600. That was using amazon and buying used. If you get new students who are
not computer savvy, say there first year, they can spend about $1200. Let's
not even discuss living expenses, especially now in the greater New Orleans
It's a no win with people like you, if they bust their humps working to
pay for school (including high school for prom, rings, graduation, etc.- my
senior year cost me close to $2000) , and earn less than stellar grades,
then it's because they 'really didn't want school." If they need grants,
they should have "earned" it through grades in high school, even if they
didn't have the proper support to assist in that- i.e. parents who are
educated enough to help with homework and such (like my parents) or couldn't
put the time in for studies. Then, if they manage to get through school, how
many counselors have one on one meetings with students to discuss what there
choices are- not many. Usually that is reserved for the class favorites,
including in my case.

So my question to you is, did I give a return on my investment?

Wendy Hall

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