Spotlight on Lawrence: Getting a Student to College Despite Resistance at Home

By: Kristin Ouellette | Thursday, July 2, 2015

At uAspire we know that no two financial situations are the same. Nadia Zamora, a uAspire advisor in Lawrence, Massachusetts, has been working with a student this past year whose story truly showcases how tricky different situations can be. Initially, she and Allison did not have the strongest relationship. The first few times that the pair met Allison was guarded and defensive, but unsure of how to find an affordable path to college and in need of help. She showed Nadia her mother’s tax forms, and when it became clear that she earned over $70,000 a year for a two-person household, Nadia warned Allison she might not be eligible for much aid.

They went ahead with filling out the FAFSA and later discovered what Nadia had suspected to be true. Allison had received mostly loans to help defray the cost of school, and learned that her top choice, Bridgewater State, had awarded her only a $900  grant to help with a $20,000 bill. This was very difficult news for Allison because she knew something the government and Bridgewater State didn’t — her mother had no intentions of helping pay for her education. For Allison, having her mother’s income prevent her from receiving aid seemed unfair; she had worked hard all through high school to set herself up for college success and felt  she deserved to go to a  4-year college.

Not long after this, Allison came to Nadia to discuss a change in her situation at home.  Her mother had kicked her out of the house and did not want her to come back, and she was now living with a classmate’s family. She went on to explain the strained relationship she and her mother had and expressed her frustration at being denied financial aid because of the assumption that her mother would help support her. Together, Nadia and Allison called Bridgewater State, let them know about her new situation, and updated her FAFSA to indicate that she was homeless.

While they waited to hear back from Bridgewater, Nadia was able to get Allison’s dorm room gear taken care of through one of uAspire’s corporate partners, Loomis Sayles, which donates supplies for college-bound students every year. When Allison learned what Nadia had done for her, she was so grateful–things were starting to look up. Good news kept rolling in, when Allison received a new financial aid award letter from Bridgewater, stating that the cost of her education was fully covered. She now would be able to attend college without the burden of wondering how she would pay for it.

Despite Allison’s initial defensiveness, Nadia did her best to be available and understanding, and build a trusting relationship between the two of them. Nadia noticed that as soon as Allison was able to open up to her about her life, she was able to help her identify challenges related to college affordability and work through them. Without Nadia’s support and financial expertise, Allison might not be heading to college this fall at all.