Helping Students Afford College

Palo Alto High School graduation, June 2015.

Palo Alto High School graduation, June 2015.

Graduation is an exciting time for most high school seniors. Here in Palo Alto, our graduates are generally ready to put the “commence” in “commencement” – they have a college lined up, and the resources to pay for it directly, or with some financial aid and scholarships. For some students, that’s not enough.

Laura Marcus Bricca, a colleague of mine at Palo Alto High School, has put out a call for help. Over 30 graduating seniors, part of the first generation in their families admitted to college, will not be able to afford to go to college because their financial aid offers are insufficient.

For too many students, college costs are putting higher education out of reach. Laura started a GoFundMe campaign that starts with an effort to help one student, Stephanie, but hopefully represents the start of greater community support for more students. Laura recently posted an update at that page, which offers more useful details about the challenges Stephanie has overcome, and the ones she still faces. I’ve reproduced that update below, with permission of both Laura and Stephanie.

Dear friends, family, colleagues, community members and contributors to this campaign,

The saga continues…

We have been informed by SF State that Stephanie has not been guaranteed on-campus housing next year, and is currently on a very long waiting list. Despite being in contact with the housing office and the Associate Dean at SF State about this issue, we have been encouraged to put a back-up plan in place because they say it is unlikely that anything on campus will open up.

The university expected her to pay an $800 housing deposit, which was due long before they provided her with a financial aid award letter. Obviously, prior to the start of this campaign, she could not afford to pay this deposit. From her perspective at that time, she felt alone and unable to do anything about it. So the deadline was missed.

Here is yet one more example of how the state university system continues to create further inequity and barriers for First Gen, low-income freshman. Obviously, the system is broken, which I have kindly pointed out to the Associate Dean at SF State.

Given that Stephanie has been homeless off and on during her entire high school career, and still doesn’t have a stable living environment, it is of paramount importance that she find a safe, stable, and affordable living environment in order to be successful in college. She is currently living with her uncle in East Palo Alto, sleeping on the floor with no mattress, and doesn’t yet have her driver’s license or a car.

I am currently seeking affordable housing options near San Francisco State where Stephanie could plan to live next school year, in the event on-campus housing will not be provided. If anyone knows of any affordable housing or resources in San Francisco to assist with this next step, could you please send me a message?

Your support with this effort is greatly appreciated.

In addition, I’ve included a link to an article written by Elena Kadvany from the Palo Alto Weekly that highlights Stephanie Estrada and Alan Ugarte, another one of the 33 students at Paly who are First Generation students to attend college facing financial hardships in this process.

Below that, is a link to an article recently published in the NY Times that provides current data on graduation rates for low-income students. This article succinctly and eloquently provides the heartbreaking rationale for why Rise Together Education is needed in order for our Paly students and many others to make it through college. Our underprivileged students need every financial and academic resource to be made available to them, for their entire college career, in order to eliminate barriers and optimize academic outcomes.

Thank you again for your time and support. It truly takes a village!

Palo Alto Weekly

NY Times



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