Student Quotes

Financial Vulnerability and Other Factors in Community College Students' Access and Success - Selected Student Quotes

Financial challenges:

“The reason why I’m coming back to school is that I’m tired of being poor. I want to make my parents proud. I’m just getting older and I want my life to change. I’m determined, no matter what. I’d like a certificate or a piece of paper that I can show someone and get a job, a decent job.”

“I’m in my class, and every time I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I have to pay this bill. Oh, man, how are my little brothers doin’?’ It goes beyond just thinkin’ about, ‘Concentrate on this,’ because you’ve got the financial problem goin’ on, too; that your parents are depending on you to help them.”

“My grades were suffering because I didn’t have a computer or Internet. Everything was online. I couldn’t do it. I just don’t think colleges should expect everyone to have those resources right away.”


“In my high school year, a guidance counselor came up and offered me a four-year college scholarship, and if you’re not trained and you’re not geared, you don’t know what that means. I didn’t know what that meant. I did know, when the Ford Motor rep came over and also had a session with the kids and applications. I knew what that meant. That meant $25,000 a year, working at Ford’s. It wasn’t a hard choice. I took Ford’s—I mean, that’s what I was programmed to do.”

Learning how to pay for college and financial literacy:

“When I first started they offered me the unsubsidized loan and I had no idea what it was so I accepted it. I said ‘okay, I need this’ and now it’s getting interest, wracking up interest and I’m not able to pay that down. I just accepted everything thinking that’s what I was supposed to do and now that I know I think that’ of the worst things moneywise that I’ve done that I’m going to be paying for eventually.”

“I think financial literacy is a huge, huge thing and I don’t think students get it unless they ask for it. It’s not something that’s just presented to them in orientations or anything like that, so if you’re not inquisitive about what’s going on with your money and your financial aid, it kind of blows you by, you kind of don’t learn about it and that’s a big thing.”

“Yeah, I’ve been kind of resourceful. I’ve been good with temp labor, day labor, show up in the morning and see if there’s work for the day, then you get cash at the end of the day and you can buy some food. Cutting back on things, selling my artwork when I can, selling my possessions when I can, or going to second-hand stores and finding something that’s worth more money than that and flipping it pretty quickly. I can be resourceful with it. It just takes up so much of my time. I’ve been homeless and going to school at the same time, so it’s just what you have to do. You don’t want to be stuck out in the street. Even if it’s someone’s couch, you don’t want to be outside.”

Financial aid challenges:

“I bought the books when I could. I ended up buying all of them before I got the financial aid but it wasn’t when I needed them. The bookstore wouldn’t let me charge to it because they were like, ‘You’re past the deadline.’ I’m like, ‘I’m getting financial aid. You’ll get the money. They can give it to you directly. Why can’t you do that? So I can get my books and get learning.’ ‘No, we can’t do that. Sorry.’”

“It’s been really hard for me here. It’s like every quarter it is something different with the financial aid, meeting your criteria and they change things and they don’t tell you until it’s time to start class, and then you can’t start class because nobody told you about this other thing you had to have. I mean that’s a big part of going to college, is to get it paid for. I’m still working on my Veteran’s money and it hasn’t even started yet, because one person says one thing, and one person says another, so it’s been a half a year and I haven’t even got my money started yet, because everybody is saying something different. I just think their financial aid [office] and their Veteran’s benefits and then the Administration, they just don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t bother telling you until it’s time for class to start.”

What the college can do:

“I personally think that during orientation they should have a set requirement that students need to...attend workshops, before you get into school, make sure you really understand what you’re getting into when it comes to borrowing loans, understand your Pell grants...make sure you have a good and thorough understanding of your financial situation, I guess, before you even start attending. Or even before admissions says ‘yes, you’re admitted, come on in,’ make it like a permanent step that students need to follow before they get enrolled.”

Advice from students to other students:

“Never assume that you’re the only one in that situation. I’ve had have several classes where the most outspoken people live lavish lifestyles...they take these things for granted, they can go out every weekend and eat out every night. It feels kind of funny...being the person who has to turn down every invitation because you don’t want to say what your situation is. Maybe they make fun of poor people. They make fun of homeless people, things like that. You just have to know there’s other people in the class who feel the same way you do, are in the same situation.”

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Center for Community College Student Engagement
—a Research and Service Initiative—
Program in Higher Education Leadership | Department of Educational Leadership and Policy  | College of Education
The University of Texas at Austin
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