Three paths, one goal: Paying your own way through college

6 years ago by in 2011, Uncategorized Tagged: , , , , , ,
After realizing their parents weren’t able to help them, three students talked about the ways they were able to pay for college.

There are times when parents find themselves struggling to provide financial assistance to fund the expenses of college. Students who find themselves in this situation have to examine how much attending college is a priority for them without having financial support from their parents.

For William Dykes, Michael Fraser II and Robyn Hill, not going to college because they didn’t have assistance from their parents wasn’t an option. They overcame their financial obstacles by either taking out private loans, working or enlisting in the Army.

‘A high price’

Since William Dykes’ parents weren’t able to pay for his college education, Dykes chose a path that would later conflict with his religious beliefs.

After sending Dykes’ two older sisters to college, there wasn’t enough money to help him.
By the age of 17, he was left to make the decision of supporting himself through school.

“My parents basically came to me and told me that there was literally no more money left for me to go to school,” he said. “That left me sitting through high school wondering how I was going to pay for college.”

After he received this news, Dykes saw a commercial for the Army that featured different benefits that came with enlisting. He then visited a recruiter.

William C. Dykes training before deployment to Afghanistan / Photo, Sgt. Joshua Cook

A benefit that stood out to Dykes was an immediate change in his financial status from being claimed as a dependent on his parents’ taxes to an independent. This made him eligible for grants and scholarships.

“My parents weren’t making enough to give me aid, but made too much for me to receive aid from the government,” Dykes said.

The Army fulfilled his need to pay for college, but he also experienced a negative side of the armed forces.

“While the Army has proved beneficial to me, it has come … at a high price,” Dykes said. “I wouldn’t recommend this position to anyone … There is too much danger involved.”

He served as military police in his first deployment to Iraq, then he became a chaplain’s assistant in his second deployment to Afghanistan. He decided to switch positions after he witnessed brutalities firsthand that conflicted with his Christian values.

Dykes said it can be easy to remain in the military and make a career out of it. However, he feels he has been called to another type of service.

“Because I believe I’ve been called to ministry, God has guided me away from a lucrative career path in the Army Officer Corps to staying true to my mission of ministry to the entire world,” he said.

Dykes is set to graduate by the end of the fall 2011 semester from Southern Adventist University with a bachelor’s degree in theology.

His contract with the Army will expire by the end of this year, and he doesn’t think he’ll re-enlist. After graduation, Dykes plans to go on a mission trip to Africa, then continue his education to become an ordained minister.

‘I knew it would be a burden on my parents’

Just as Dykes had to figure out a way to finance his education, Michael Fraser II found himself in a similar situation.

The 23-year-old graduate of Oakwood University in Huntsville, Ala., said he didn’t know how much he would have to pay for college until his first term ended. At that point, he realized he would have to pay approximately $12,000 per semester on his own.

Michael Fraser II / Photo, Ashley Simpson

“I knew it would be a financial burden on my parents,” he said. “I didn’t mind taking on the responsibility. It’s my education. I don’t mind investing in myself.”

Two-thirds of college students graduate with student loans, according to the Wall Street Journal. As of May 2011, Fraser joined that increasing number.

“It was fairly easy because I always made sure I had enough money borrowed,” he said. “I was concise. I only borrowed what I needed.”

Fraser said he experienced a different type of pressure compared to students who didn’t have to finance their own education.

“People always say, ‘Don’t waste your parents’ money,’ but when you are doing it yourself, it changes to, ‘Don’t waste your own money,’” he said.

Fraser is preparing to go to graduate school to study either project management or human resources. He hopes to maximize his independence by acquiring a job with a “good salary.” He described that as an income that would allow him to pay off his loans.

‘It’s worth sticking with’

As Fraser didn’t mind making a financial sacrifice to invest in his future, Robyn Hill also didn’t mind taking on an extra responsibility to reach her dreams.

Hill, a 23-year-old from Houston, is determined to have a career as a teacher. Although her parents aren’t able to finance her education, she hasn’t allowed that factor to stop her.

Her first major step toward achieving this goal was enrolling herself in Lonestar College, a consortium of community colleges in Houston.

To pay for her tuition, she works as an assistant manager at Cartridge World six hours per day before going to school from 4 to 10 p.m. While balancing time between school and work, Hill said she’s developed a deeper appreciation of her college experience.

“Some people are more focused on the social aspect and like to party, stay up late and blow off classes, but when you pay for yourself, it’s your own money, money you worked hard for,” Hill said.

At first, Hill had difficulty adjusting to her long days.

“For about a month, I was debating if I should drop out of school,” she said. “I was very tired, and it was very stressful.”

Through Hill’s perseverance, she’s already earned her associate’s degree in English, and hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree in general education by 2013.

Paying for Lonestar, which is $800 per semester, is manageable for Hill through a three-step payment plan that her financial aid center set up for her. Although Hill took out a $1,500 loan and her brother helped her find student grants, her primary source of funding comes from the money she earns.

In the end, Hill said, it’s all worth it.

“It’s going to be scary in the beginning. It will get hard, but it’s worth sticking with. In the end, you can say this is something I earned, and it wasn’t given to you.”

The American University School of Communication Graduate Program in Journalism works to prepare students for the realities of today's news and information space and the challenges of tomorrow. Find out more by visiting us online at soc.american.edu

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