Financial Struggles Alter Graduation Plans

April 25, 2017

By Crystal Medrano

Legion Ivory, music composition major from the class of 2017, planned to graduate early, little did he know there would be a clause on his tuition contract that would keep him from doing so.

More and more students are now struggling to graduate because of overdue bills. These bills are usually a result of unknown clauses in contracts or class schedule and or class credit issues.

Rose Guccione, an adjunct professor from the music discipline, voices her opinion after seeing her students struggle to graduate from Dominican over the past three years due to these issues.

“As a religious institution, we have a spiritual responsibility to help students reach their goals,” she said. “We want students start their adult lives, and not be denied their diploma because they found out too late that they owed too much on their debt to the university.”

One of Guccione’s students whom she saw struggle for months until she decided take action was Ivory.

Ivory had completed his major requirements and intended on graduating early but was forced to take another semester because he had not yet fulfilled the necessary credits in order to graduate. This added approximately $7,000 to his outstanding balance that he needed to pay in full until he would be handed his diploma. This was $7,000 that he did not have.

This was something that Ivory was not aware of because he thought he would be able to pay what he owed little by little after he graduated because he found out about his lack of credits his last year at this institution.

“It was a tiny little clause located on the back of this huge contract and it hurt knowing that after four years of hard work, I was being kept from the one thing me and my family were looking forward to, because of money,” said Ivory. “Money should not be the reason why I don’t succeed.”

Fine print reading is something many people struggle with but in situations like these, the most minor and insignificant seeming steps are the most crucial. Guccione and Ivory stress the importance of students knowing exactly what their financial situation is so this doesn’t happen to them.

“Inform yourselves on everything that you owe the school,” Guccione said. “Talk to people in the financial aid office, get a frequent accounting from the Bursar, read the fine print and find that small clause that can add to your college struggles.”

Guccione and Ivory, as well as many students, would like to see the people working in these offices, such as student accounts and financial-aid, reaching out to students on the verge of being at risk. It would help students visualize what they have to do before it’s their time to get their diploma.

Ivory expresses his disappointment in the school when money seemed like the one thing keeping him from the once in a lifetime opportunity of walking across the stage.

“If a student owes money, charge the credit or withhold the diploma, but don’t keep them from walking,” Ivory said. “The diploma will always be there, the ceremony only comes once and denying students the right to walk is like kicking us while we’re already down.”

If you do find yourself in a situation where something is prohibiting you from graduation, just know that there are resources available for you. This includes the most obvious, asking for help.

Guccione explains that one way to get help is to reach out to the larger population and educate yourself on fundraising. However, she stresses that students not to be ashamed.

“Be proactive, and get informed about the resources available to you,” Guccione said. “Do frequent searches for private scholarships. Ask for direction from the financial professionals on campus, your advisors, faculty, your colleagues, your social circles, your government representatives, etc. You are paying a great deal for your education.  Do not buy into any shaming. Do not let shame win!”

Ivory didn’t not like the idea of asking for help but decided to put that aside. What hurt him most, however, was knowing that his hard work was not enough.

“If someone is kind enough to help you succeed, you take it,” Ivory said. “But you take it with humility, so you can succeed and then you can help someone else succeed because we are not going to make it without help.”  

medrcrys@my.dom.edu