When Milca Aguilar graduated from Abramson Sci Academy in 2019, she was excited about what college had in store for her. She had already resolved to major in Hospitality and Tourism. “I’d been interested in it ever since I lived in Honduras,” Milca said. Like many of Collegiate’s graduates, Milca has a vested interest in leveraging her education to positively impact the community—she is considering working as an interpreter in a hospitality context after she graduates from college in 2023. However, an obstacle in Milca’s life plans did not come to light until she enrolled in her first college classes: college gap costs.
Usually $1,000 or under, gap costs are made up of unexpected expenses related to college enrollment that financial assistance does not cover. Text books, processing fees, housing, and out-of-state tuition are just some of the expenses that can create a gap cost for college students. The impact of the coronavirus epidemic has only brought about more financial concerns for Collegiate’s alumni. Many of them, like Milca, work with their CA Next alumni advisors to help navigate their college’s financial resources and business offices. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, many other alumni have relied on their CA Next adviser to apply for unemployment, food/rent assistance, and other benefits available to people in need.
Because of her gap cost, Milca took a full time job at a restaurant, ensuring that her hours did not conflict with her class schedule. Even with this additional tax on her time, Milca maintains a positive outlook because of her support network. “It’s good to have someone checking up on you,” she said of her alumni advisor. “I’m by myself paying for college. But I’m still at my parents house so that helps. I know I have support.”
Like Milca, Nejia Green (GWC ‘19) also faced gap costs at the outset of her college experience. Even with a Pell Grant and three loans Nejia still was still short $1,806 for her first semester. Realizing the gap before the start of classes, she talked with her college’s financial aid office to set up a payment plan. CA Next helped her research and prepare for these conversations. “Working with Ms. Maria has been really great,” Nejia said of her alumni advisor’s support, “she has guided me a lot and helped with everything. When I was thinking about transferring for the semester, she helped make a pros and cons list. She kept checking up to make sure I had gotten through everything I needed to do.”
In her first year of college, Monica Ortiz (GWC ‘17) was facing similar gap costs to Milca and Nejia. With strong grades but inadequate funding, Monica had to be strategic about where she enrolled in college. Monica’s interest in advocacy or philosophy lead her to Nunez Community College’s paralegal studies program. CA Next helped her navigate registration, secure funding for books, and apply for FAFSA once she became eligible. She says that her alumni advisor was “there for me always. She would come to my college and would meet with me and my professors.” Because of her hard work and support network, Monica will graduate this fall with her Associates degree. In the short term, she plans to begin a career as a paralegal, assisting other Spanish speakers in navigating the legal system. In the long term, she’d like to pursue her Bachelors degree to advance within her field.
CA Next’s support helps dozens of our alumni plan to cover their gap costs each year. Likewise, their team has responded to our alumni’s need for additional support to weather COVID-19—CA Next’s Alumni Relief Grant has already helped over 150 alumni cover the cost of essentials such as food, medication, and housing.
You can follow CA Next on social media to learn more about how they are supporting our graduates. We encourage you to contribute to CA Next this June 2nd: GiveNOLA Day. Even a small donation of $10 can make a big impact on an alumnus who is struggling to pay for college and/or life essentials. Without help from our donors who make Collegiate’s post-secondary programming possible, students like Milca, Neija, and Monica would be navigating college without the support of their alumni advisors. Thank you to our donors who help make CA Next possible!