My son got into Morehouse College, the only all-male, historically black institution of higher learning, which was indeed an honor. Then the grim reality of how we were going to afford his education hit. I’m a college graduate, with a median income, but I’m in debt and my credit is ruined from a divorce. Looking for money to help send my son to school, I saw grants for single-parents and first- generation scholarships. We applied and nothing came through.
My son applied for numerous scholarships and we were hopeful that he would at least get half of the ones he submitted, which would cover the annual Morehouse cost of $47,000. As fall approached and no football scholarship offers were coming, we got more stressed. We started a gofundme.com campaign, we put together sponsorship letters, and we contacted businesses for donations. But all of these were dead ends, too.
Then I got a call from the NROTC Commander at Morehouse. He said that my son was denied a scholarship but that he wanted to help him. “If I can at least get his room and board covered, would you be interested?” he asked. I said, “Yes, anything will help.” My son checked in for early registration because he was invited to football camp, and still the scholarship didn’t come through. The commander said my son should just come and he would work something out. The school seemed to be trying hard to work something out for us.
Initially my ex-husband’s father, my father-in-law, agreed to co-sign a parent-plus loan with my son, which I couldn’t do because my credit was shot. Unfortunately, he changed his mind, but after I talked to someone at Morehouse my son was cleared to attend, and a few more scholarships came in.
Then the football coach called and said the school would give him a $7,500 scholarship. We were fortunate that he was able to earn a position on the football team and a partial scholarship. Books for the semester were $800, so we rented them instead. Luckily, my ex-husband withdrew some money from an annuity to cover the remainder of the tuition for this year.
My son is praying that the football team will give him a full scholarship for next year so that we are not faced with this challenge again, but that’s not a plan, and he knows he has to keep his nose to the grindstone academically. I don’t know what else to do for the remaining college years.
Felicia Gopaul, Certified Financial Planning and College Funding Specialist and founder of College Funding Resource responds:
This case breaks my heart. This parent did everything she could and is still not secure with her son’s finances for college.
- Apply local. This student applied for scholarships but didn’t get any initially. Was it a mismatch with her son’s qualifications versus the scholarships he applied for? Did he only apply for scholarships where there was strong national competition? In other words, was he competing against the best and the brightest from across the nation rather than pursuing local scholarships where he had a better chance of receiving at least one? I tell parents that I work with that their child is most competitive at the local level and to apply for more local (smaller) scholarships than to swing for the bleachers and only pursue large national scholarships.
- gofundme.com. I love the spirit of a gofundme campaign. However I’ve found that to be successful, you have to tell an interesting story that gets people to care. It also helps to keep your audience updated on your progress and what you are personally doing to help yourself. I’ve also found that for education, it’s easier to get fully funded when you are trying to raise a smaller amount than $47,000.
- Women need their own credit. When I got started with financial planning, I volunteered with Soroptimist International. They had a program teaching women about personal finance. While volunteering, I saw women who were getting divorced or widowed in their 40’s/50’s and hearing their stories of starting over. I mentally made the decision (and I actively encourage women to do the same) to have my own credit, separate and apart from my husband. If Deniece had done this, then she might have been able to get the PLUS loan she needed based on her own credit.
- Education funding through the military. Many of my family and friends were able to get their education through the military. If your son is still interested, find out why he didn’t get the scholarship through the NROTC and if he could re-apply in the future. If he gets the NROTC scholarship, he should understand what it would take to get and keep the scholarship, and he should also understand what commitments is he making in exchange for the scholarship.
- Have a backup plan for an athletic scholarship. Playing football in college is many kids’ dream and getting a scholarship to play is the ultimate reward. However, injuries can strip your son of his scholarship. Make sure he is making academic progress toward a degree and not letting the lure of playing football keep him from the goal of a college degree. It’s good that he realizes the importance of studying.
- Choose an economically viable major. Finally, many student athletes pursue degrees in majors that set them up economically to struggle throughout their live times. Take a listen to people working in the Top 100 careers and be inspired to go into a field that employers are actually searching for new candidates. You can find it here –http://www.collegefundingresource.com/category/podcast/career/