Rebecca’s Story

By: Kristin Ouellette | Wednesday, December 3, 2014

uAspire advisors are always on the clock. We help students throughout the calendar year to ensure that they have an idea of how and how much they’ll pay for each of the colleges on their list. We work with students to discuss affordable and financial ‘stretch’ options in the fall, walk them through the FAFSA form in the winter, and compare financial award letters in the spring, allowing them to make the most informed college choice possible. We go beyond the senior year, connecting with students over the summer to help them pay their bills, collect scholarship money, communicate with their college financial offices, and become their own advocates.

Case in point: Rebecca Hernandez, a graduate of a Boston public school, dreamed of entering the fashion industry after college. With a solid GPA, she had high hopes to going to a 4-year college out of state. She met with Dan Mendelsohn, one of our veteran advisors, a few times throughout her senior year for help with the financial aid process. Her first choice was Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, which has a popular program in Fashion Merchandising. Dan aided her in filling out all the necessary forms to apply for financial aid, but didn’t hear from her again until after graduation.

In early July, Dan followed up with Rebecca as part of uAspire’s Summer College Connect program to see if she had any financial aid questions before she went off to college. She did. It turned out that even with her many grants, scholarships, and loans, she was still almost $16,000/year short for Johnson & Wale’s $38,000 annual tuition. Dan explored with her the possibility of commuting to Johnson & Wales from Boston or taking out a Parent Plus loan in her mother’s name, but both options would leave her with exorbitant loans. Dan and Rebecca then revisited her college list, but either encountered similar financial barriers to attendance, or no available spots in 4-year universities. Faced with the reality of paying for college, Rebecca didn’t know what to do.

Dan suggested attending community college, which would be free with Rebecca’s Pell Grant. At first, she was reluctant to consider this option, as she had her heart set on attending Johnson & Wales. However, Dan took the time to research fashion-related programs at other four-year schools and discovered that a Massachusetts college, Framingham State University, offered a business major with an optional focus in fashion. He told Rebecca about a state-sponsored program, MassTransfer, which offers Massachusetts residents guaranteed admission to any state school, including Framingham State, if they complete two years at a community college with a B minus average or higher.

Dan’s analysis helped Rebecca come to the conclusion that attending community college was in her best financial interest, and that she could still pursue her dreams in the fashion industry without going tens of thousands of dollars into debt. She enrolled in Massachusetts Bay Community College in 2013, where she earned straight A’s while working several jobs to save up for future tuition bills. This September, Rebecca started her second year at Mass Bay. With her fantastic grades, she might even qualify for a 33% tuition waiver for her final two years of school, making the MassTransfer option less expensive overall.

At uAspire we work to ensure that students make the most informed choices possible, without compromising on their dreams. Rebecca’s story is an example. By helping her find an affordable path, we are making it possible for her to to achieve her dreams without compromising her future.