While touted as the gateway to a better life, school has seemingly ruined mine.
An uncle of mine died the same week I went through a devastating breakup, and I missed finals even though I made it back the week of. The school thought I dropped my courses completely because I missed the last week of class while I was out of town at the funeral, and then missed finals. Obviously my mind was not at its best. I figured it would be okay though. My grades weren’t awful, I’d just make them up next semester.
Later that summer, I got a letter saying that I owed the school money for dropping out (almost $3,000) and that unless I turned in a paper signed by each of my professors saying that I didn’t drop out their classes, I’d have to pay it back. I got the letter the day before the due date. I’d been surviving off grants and loans with an Expected Family Contribution of zero, so I didn’t have that much money to just hand over. So, I went to the financial aid office for assistance.
They told me there was nothing they could do as the invoice had been sent. It was “out of their hands.” I’d have to talk to the student accounting office to change it. The student accounting office said they understood, but since they turned it in, it was “out of their hands.” They gave me the number for collections, who predictably told me it was “out of their hands.” I did get a recommendation to talk to the financial aid department, and even got jostled into setting up a payment plan for the money I owed, which I called because I couldn’t pay back.
So, this cycle went around and around. Call someone else, it’s not our fault, a thousand excuses and misdirections. No actual help though.
Now I did get a lot more calls and emails about how I was behind in payments that we’d established I never had the money to pay for. Since then, I’ve been looking for a job, but nobody wants to hire me with no work experience and a dependency on the local bus routes. Never mind the fact that I’ve done volunteering, know plenty of skills, and have lots of potential. Everyone wants you to have a car, previous work experience, or a degree. I have none of those. Things just get worse.
I live with a friend who doesn’t have much money, and the place we are living is being sold. All my family lives far out of town, I have no phone, and no means of getting resources together to fix things. So I’m homeless. All because of a misconception I wasn’t even allowed to clear up. I wouldn’t drop out of school after one year. With each year that passes though, it is closer to becoming a reality. Especially since each year after there has been death after death of people I care about, a looming possibility I could be the next, and nobody to really turn to for support. For now, I’m bumming food off my associates and still searching for employment, but if their good will runs out first … anything is possible.
Image credit: B Rosen/flickr