If you have read the first “College Bound” post, feel free to skip this first paragraph. For new-comers, I can certainly fill you in. I have decided, at the age of 22, to go to college and follow my dream. I am interested in becoming an English major with a focus on creative fiction to teach at the college level and to hone my writing skills. Maybe one day you’ll see my name on the bestseller’s list!
I have been accepted as an online undergraduate student at Southern New Hampshire University, regionally accredited. It felt like that was the easy part – at least, not nearly as difficult as people made it seem in high school. Honestly, that was why I didn’t go straight to college. It gave me cold feet. I was too nervous to start applying, too fearful of rejection. When I opened the restaurant with my mother, it pushed my launch date even further back.
It took all of two weeks for this to solidify. I almost felt I was rushing into it, but I spent hours upon hours researching and making sure all the puzzle pieces fit together. Everything was sliding into place seamlessly, except one part.
The one thing all college students have to deal with, unless Mommy and Daddy are richer than anyone needs to be, is financial aid. And almost all students have to go through the government to get it. (Let’s face it, who wants a loan with over 10% interest that is sure to take over 20 years to pay off?)
One thing I didn’t know before getting into all this is that I’m still considered a dependent. Although I am over 18 years old, have been on my own for years, and claim myself on my taxes, I am still considered a “dependent”.
My mom still owns a restaurant. Everyone knows it takes years for these things to get going, so her income is…not so much.
Long story short, since I’m a “dependent”, my mother’s taxes have to be on point. Until I turn 24, get married, have a child, or join the military, I have to rely on my mother’s income and tax information. I literally cannot go to school unless one of these things miraculously happen or if my mom does her taxes.
It’s not as easy as getting onto TurboTax and filling out some information. There is a lot of paperwork. She cannot do her personal taxes until the business taxes are done. She has to contend with a flood that destroyed some paperwork, actually running the business (a 24/7 task), and countless other things I can’t even begin to comprehend.
I have to put my mom through all of that just so I can go to school. Either that, or I have to wait until I’m married, have a child, or turn 24 to go to school. If it’s the latter, I won’t be done until I’m around 32 years old. For me, that’s a bit late in life.
I want to start my career. I want to have children. I don’t want to wait until after I’m 30.
But I know I’m just being selfish about all of this.
I get a thought into my head, an idea, a new interest, and I drive full-speed toward it. Forget any obstacles in the way. That’s the only way I know how to get up my waterspout.
And if something, entirely out of my control (like a rainstorm, for example) gets in my way, I don’t know how to cope. I cry.
And I cried for what must have been an hour in total, unsure what other way to get out my frustration. I was not-so kind to the financial aid consultants at the school, who have nothing to do with it, as they welcomed my feedback and anger with scripted responses. Although I knew it wasn’t their fault. This wasn’t their decision. It is the government’s.
They are choosing who gets to go school and when by forcing practically everyone under the age of 24 to include their parent’s information. And it reminds me of what African Americans are crying out about these days – how they are not given the same opportunities as others for education and, therefore, careers.
I used to think it was silly. I knew that my mother defied all odds, even growing in Baltimore, and became a very smart, highly educated woman by simply working hard. It didn’t matter to her what the other students thought. She spent hours in the library learning as much as she could to get the career she has.
Everyone, I don’t care what color your skin is or where you live, has that opportunity. In public school, it is up to each individual to pay attention and work hard to get good grades. But when it comes to higher education, what everyone seems to need these days to get a decent job, the scale is definitely tilted in a certain direction.
I mean, how can anyone be expected to rise up from their current situation if the giant foot of Uncle Sam is stomping on their heads? These students are being told that they are dependents even if they are not for tax purposes. If you choose not to include your parent’s information, you lose the opportunity to get subsidized loans, which I understand means you may not get what is needed to get your degree.
Of course, there are people who associate themselves with the majority group and run into the same problem. I’ll do you one better and expand this example to inner city families. There are millions of them of all ethnicities and races and many of them struggle financially. Some parents, for their own reasons, may not file their taxes in a timely manner. These children, no matter what their background, are being denied the ability to go to school. I hope you understand where this is going.
Because I can go over this until I reach a million words, but that has been done before. People have been complaining about this for years and even I, one of the people who associates themselves with a minority group, was blind to it. I’m sure this one post, this one complaint, will not succeed in changing the way this country runs financial aid. But I intend for it to add to the billions of other posts, tweets, texts, phone calls, complaints, cries, protests, etc. that are out there. I plan on adding a bit more weight to the scale on the side of the minorities, the less fortunate.
The thing we have to remember and understand is that our side of the scale only accepts voices that weigh as much as tin foil, and the other side accepts opinions that weigh as much as gold.
FEATURED IMAGE FROM THE SENTINEL