Feature Story “School or Work, That is the Question” Project (published in The Campus Eye)

School or Work, That is the Question

Why One Student Dropped out of College, and Why He Thinks it Was the Right Decision

By Kate Bauer

His eyes look haunted. His hand has a death-grip on his pencil. He stares at his sketchpad. A drawing of a beautiful anime girl lays before him. His name is Joshua Joseph and he likes drawing.

josh elsa close

Joshua Joseph draws an anime version of Frozen’s Elsa.

Like millions around the world, he has a dream. He is an artist. He wants to go professional. He knows the best way would be college, but he didn’t make it all the way through. Joseph is one of 48 percent of students that dropped out of Anoka-Ramsey Community College. The average drop out rate of the nation for similar colleges is 62 percent. With a much lower percentage of dropouts than the national average, one has to wonder why those people dropped out? I sat down with one such person.

Joseph seems like a regular guy. He smiles often as he immediately starts to talk in a rapid-fire machine gun style questioning manner. I can tell he’s nervous as he fidgets. His foot bounces up and down as he continues the ‘common courtesy’ questions like they are the most important questions in the world. Joseph finally calms down as I start asking him about what classes he took. I soon find out why Joseph was so nervous. He had quit going to school due to an ultimatum by his parents. Like many young students, he stayed with parents to cut down on costs while going to college. He worked part-time and went to school part time. However, his parents wanted him to go to choose one or the other. Sure, he could have moved out on his own, he tells me, but it’s much easier when you have a support system.

“I had a choice… go to work or go to school. I choose work to get more money. School just costs you money,” Joseph said.

Affordability of college is usually the number one concern for students. Joseph is no different. It costs money to go and he can make money by working. With college debt rising nationwide it’s a cause for concern to everyone. In fact, President Barack Obama acknowledged this with his latest State of the Union address, calling for the first two years of college to be free of charge. Even with Anoka-Ramsey having one of the lowest tuition rates in MN, Joseph decided he needed the money now rather than later.

“It’s like a catch-22,” Joseph states, “If I don’t go to college, I make less money working. If I want to work, I can’t really go to college the way I want to.”

Joseph does say that he eventually wants to go back to school for an art degree. He says it may not be for a long while though.

“I kind of got burned out.” He said.

For many students it’s just too much to do work and school. His eyes mist up and he stares at his anime girl on his sketchpad.

“It didn’t help that I was in… let’s just say a bad relationship.” He hugs his sketchbook to his chest.

contemplative

Joshua contemplative.

He looks back up at me and our eyes meet. It was a pregnant moment. There are moments like this between friends all the time. Moments when you connect on a much deeper level. A time when out of nowhere you see the other person’s soul and neither of you are the same again. Then the moment passes and I tell him he doesn’t have to talk about it if he doesn’t want to. Gratefully, he smiles and asks me for the next question.

I asked Joseph why he agreed to the interview. He says that he wants to tell his story. He sees so many other have tried and failed. He wants people to know that letting it go for now doesn’t mean letting it go forever. Sure, he doesn’t have a degree now. He may get discovered for his work now and never go to college. He may go to college twenty years from now and never have his drawings see the light of day. That’s the nature of the beast. However, he’s determined to never give up entirely. Joseph finished, “I’ll do what I love and love what I do. In the end, you can’t really ask much more of me.”

elsa further

Joshua Joseph doing “what I love.”

Update: This story was published at The Campus Eye, linked here: http://www.thecampuseye.com/2015/05/01/school-or-work-that-is-the-question/

Advertisements

Print Story ‘High Schools Don’t Find FAFSA Necessary’ Project

Is FAFSA Necessary?

High Schools Might Not Think So

by Kate Bauer

Many people that want to go to college start out by not knowing how they will pay for their education. This is because many high schools are not preparing them for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. While questioning current and former students of local community or technical colleges, a surprising amount said the average student is unprepared for college tuition.

First, Kevin Mette, who went to Anoka Technical College, said he had his mother tell him about the FAFSA. He went on to say that the high school he went to told him nothing about it. Mette said that he had to go out of his way to find information out himself and had to rely on the FAFSA website to get further information. He says that without his mom he would “never have even known about it”, and that “other students might not be so lucky having a parent that will tell them.” Even with knowing what site to look at, he still had difficulty figuring out how to work the website itself.

Mike Lea, former Vermillion Community College student, said that he only knew to ask about the FAFSA in high school because of his family members telling him about it. Lea then took the initiative to talk to the Dean at his high school, and to have the school librarian walk him through the process. All students questioned stated they would not have been able to go to college without some kind of student aid.financial aid funny

Certainly, the FAFSA is the best way to qualify for student loans and grants. Immediately after getting accepted into any college, a student should fill out the FAFSA. Even if you plan on paying your own way through, you may qualify for grants or scholarships.

Every semester a student should fill it out regardless of financial need. Why pay for college out of your own pocket when you can get some help for free? The site a student should visit with a list of all the needed qualifications is on the FAFSA website featured here. It might be to late for this semester, but it’s a good idea to get a head start on the next.

A little known fact about student aid, is that the government generally expects a family to pay for half of a student’s college costs, unless financial need is proven. Even if a student lives on their own and pays for their own things, it is still possible that parents are expected to pay for tuition. If a student is under 24 years of age, they should pay careful attention to the qualifications for not relying on parental help.

The exceptions to the half tuition rule are: married, legally married but separated, emancipated, parental incomes at low levels, or having custody of a minor child. Students above the age of 24 could still be expected to pay for some tuition, but this depends on the income the student makes. A recent survey shows that most high school classes do not prepare you for this evaluation of your needs for tuition help in college.fafsa_header

Without student aid, many people will find college to be far less accessible to them. The first thing a student does after being accepted to a college is fill out a FAFSA. If your high school didn’t talk to you about it like many others have experienced, students should seek out: an adviser, a financial aid representative, a local librarian, or anyone else that can help them with filling it out.Untitled

Photojournalism ‘Brochure’ Project

Come explore!

                          Everyone knows the Student Center at Anoka-Ramsey, but did you ever visit the library or the cafeteria? Take a look at some of the places you might not know about.

Eman Alnabi and Najma Ali (left to right) say they enjoy working at the library located on the second floor to the left of the student center.
Eman Alnabi and Najma Ali (left to right) say they enjoy working at the library located on the second floor to the left of the student center.
The cafeteria, located on the second floor to the right of the student center,  offers open spaces and multiple choices for hungry students.
The cafeteria, located on the second floor to the right of the student center,
offers open spaces and multiple choices for hungry students.
Students like Sara (right) get help from tutors such as Kari (left) and Gavin (middle) in the tutor center located at L12-L15.
Students like Sara (right) get help from tutors such as Kari (left) and Gavin (middle) in the tutor center located at L12-L15.
Students like Matthew (left) and Adam (right) relax in the cafe on the ground floor, known as the Courtyard Commons, to the right of the student center.
Students like Matthew (left) and Adam (right) relax in the cafe on the ground floor, known as the Courtyard Commons, to the right of the student center.
The Campus eye, the school newspaper, is located in the Courtyard Commons.
The Campus eye, the school newspaper, is located in the Courtyard Commons.