During his freshmen year, California native Kenyon Jackson went to class everyday and completed assignments that he never knew if he would have the opportunity to turn in for a grade. Despite Jackson’s involvement in a local church home, service and leadership organizations on campus and an apparent financial need, he was unable to officially enroll in classes until the eighth week of the semester. Jackson, like many other minority students attending Abilene Christian University face an uphill battle to pay for higher education.
Throughout the last 35 years the average annual tuition for attendance to a private university has risen 248 percent. Students are taking out loans and accumulating debt at a higher pace than ever before in American history, and minorities are finding it especially difficult to keep up.
“I come from a family that doesn’t really have access to people with good credit,” said Jackson, a senior psychology major from Los Angeles. “Loans aren’t really an option for me.”
Now in his fourth year at ACU, Jackson is accustomed to the hunt for financial assistance as well as the burdens of late registration. During the fall of his senior year, he was nearly $9,000 short of money he needed to fulfill a financial plan that would allow him to register for classes. This time, he was registered during the first week of school and managed to obtain a seat in all the classes he needed.
“To continue to take on more expenses when you haven’t been able to cover the expenses you’ve already occurred doesn’t make sense,” said Ed Kerestly, student financial services. “The expectation is that your bill is covered before you continue on into the next semester.”
Should a student not have the full bill covered for the current or preceding semester, the student would have a hold placed on his account. The hold is only lifted upon completion of a secure plan for payment in the future and a balancing of any current debt to the university.
Kerestly said that thirty percent of ACU students graduate without any debt at all. Still, the average student graduates with $36,000 of debt, nearly $11,000 more than the national average.
Senior marketing major Luz Hernandez is touting the cost of tuition by herself, racking up $22,000 in the last two years alone. She said, “I feel like since there’s not that many of us, there could be an extension of options to help.”
Hernandez, like other students, notices the differences between minority students and their white counterparts –
“Most of the ones who are not minorities, I noticed that there parents pay for school or they’re taken care of,” she said. “They have less worries that as part of a minority group, I do.”
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