In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.
Today, one woman shares how getting denied for financial aid left her with a massive amount of student loan debt that’s greatly impacting her daily life—and, potentially, her future.
The day I filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, I was a happy high school senior who had just been accepted to Ramapo College of New Jersey, a public school where I’d be paying in-state tuition. I had chosen the college in part because I didn’t want to graduate with hefty student loans—and figured that I’d get a decent aid package based on my family’s financial situation.
My parents’ accountant helped me and my dad fill out the FAFSA, which determines how much we were eligible to receive in federal student aid through grants and low-interest federal loans. He was the one who first told us that he suspected “we made too much” for me to receive aid. But I refused to believe him.
The yearly tuition, as well as room and board, came out to $22,000 a year. My family’s income was about $85,000—a sum that was stretched thin. My mom was on permanent disability because she suffered from a condition that affected the discs in her neck, so my dad, who worked in the casino industry, had to cover living expenses for me, my mother, my brother and our grandmother, who lives with my family.
I didn’t expect to get a whole lot of financial aid, but surely, I thought, somebody would see that it wasn’t going to be feasible for my parents to help me pay for tuition in addition to all of their other expenses.
When I got official word from the federal government about my aid package, I cried. I had been denied any grants, and they really limited the amount of federal loans I could borrow—only about $7,500. I actually thought that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college. I didn’t have rich relatives who I could beg to help me pay for tuition, and I knew my parents couldn’t really help.
I was discouraged, especially since I thought I had done everything right. I studied hard and got mostly A’s in high school. I was going to a state school, not some fancy private university. How could the system have failed me—and how would I find a way to pay for college?