Testimony before the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education
Presented by Grace Goodluck
May 19th, 2015
Honorable Chairman Gardner and members of the committee,
My name is Grace Goodluck, and I just completed my sophomore year at Kent State University. College was always presented to me as an inevitable part of my future–I was told from childhood that I would attend college, in order to get a job and have a successful future. The part that I did not realize until it was time to actually take this step is how hard this process actually is–getting into the university you wanted did not necessarily mean it was the one you could afford to go to.
I am a graduate from Cleveland Heights High School, and my first semester of college, I attended Cleveland State University and commuted from my parents house. I had made this decision because it seemed the most financially sound, as I did not have to take out any loans. However, I was incredibly unhappy attending Cleveland State and staying in my hometown. I felt like I was not moving forward with my life–I was living in the same house I had lived in my whole life, working my same part time job, and hanging out with the same friends from my hometown. I was paying less money and not throwing myself into debt, but I did not feel like I was working towards anything.
I knew that I had to make a change. I transferred to Kent State and declared a Political Science major. I chose Kent partly because of the long history of activism, as I already knew then that I was interested in activism myself. I remember from applying to colleges in high school that Kent was considered one of the more affordable schools in Ohio. I did not take out any loans until I got to Kent State, and by the end of that spring semester, I was already $6,000 in debt. That semester, taking three Political Science classes, I knew I had found my passion. It was the first time in my entire school career where I actually felt invested in my classes, and doing well in school.
It was not until my sophomore year, though, that I truly found my calling. I joined Kent’s College Democrats at the beginning of the year, and through that, I registered voters, worked on a state representative campaign, and canvassed for the group Moms Demand Action. This began me on my quest to take action on the issues that I am truly passionate about it. Through being in student orgs, I found out about campus groups United Students Against Sweatshops and Ohio Student Association. They are both groups that are dedicated to alleviating the suffering of disenfranchised groups. Ohio Student Association has a campaign dedicated to ending student debt, and that is what brings me here today.
My sophomore year at Kent, and discovering activism, was truly enlightening and helped develop who I am as a person. However, I almost was not able to attend school this year. When I received my tuition bill the summer before, along with the total amount of financial aid I was getting, I found out that it would not be enough to cover my costs for school. I am from a low-income family of five, and my Estimated Family Contribution for FAFSA has always been $0. Previously, if I had extra costs that were not covered by aid, we were able to get money together through my part time job, and my parents finding some kind of miracle. This time, though, my father, the sole supporter of our family, had just lost his job, and any extra money was going towards paying bills, and keeping my family afloat. I could not even take the risk of getting a private loan–at my age it is necessary to have your parents co sign, and unfortunately for me, the credit scores of my parents did not take into account the tremendous financial difficulty of being a large, low income family, and because of this, I was rejected for a loan.
At this point, my thirst for knowledge and pursuing a higher education was so great that I knew I had to figure out a creative solution. I created a GoFundMe page, and through the use of mine, and my parents social media, I was able to cover the costs through the generosity of my friends and family.
I was lucky to have people in my circle who were so kind as to help me out. But it begs the question–why did I, a good student who so badly wanted to pursue higher education at a public university, have to resort to this? Was I not as deserving of an education as those who could afford to pay?
Since joining Ohio Student Association’s Higher Education campaign, there have been some people who have told me that I should not look at higher education as a public good. That is contradictory to the way our society treats it–we are told that you have to go to college in order to get a good paying job, and that our country does better when more people are educated.
Ohio is falling behind when it comes to investing in higher ed. Tuition costs continue to rise, while aid given to students has been decreasing. That has to change.
Previous Posts in This Series:
“Ohio Student Association Testimony before the Ohio Senate on Student Debt: Part 1”: https://academeblog.org/2015/05/29/ohio-student-association-testimony-before-the-ohio-senate-on-student-debt-part-1/