Yesterday, I ran across an article in Huffington Post about a growing number of former college students, who frequent websites trading companionship and/or sex for help with the bills, in particular, student loan debt. The rising cost of college, high employment rate, and lackluster economy has created the perfect storm of debt for 20-somethings college graduates. These “sugar daddy” and “sugar baby” stories should remind us all about the need for increased funding of higher education in America.
On a recent visit to the movie theater, the clerk took my tickets for Captain America and she thanked me and the City for financial support given to her in grants to Atlanta Public School students through the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP). She’s studying theater at an area university and working part time to make ends meet. We had spoken before but as this fall semester rolls closer she mentioned how she would never forget the opportunity the MYP gave her to help defray the cost of some of her college expenses.
This young lady’s story is like hundreds, really thousands of APS students who have been recipients of over $6 million in donations since 2005. The young woman reminded me of so many other students who simply needed someone to grip their foot on the way up. Many of their successes are only paralleled by the challenges they faced to achieve their academic goals. There’s Antonio who graduated from Lincoln University in Missouri and will start graduate school at Penn State University; Desmond who now teaches at Savannah State University; Kwanza who won a $10,000 grant for the best business idea at a recent White House educational program and Eros who won a national scholarship to complete his graduate studies.
Each of these students and many more proved the impossible was possible with a little help and lots of encouragement by members of the local Chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the professionals at Atlanta Workforce Development Agency (AWDA), the dozens of corporate donors and philanthropists who pitched in and the scores of college representatives who guided the students through the cumbersome college entrance process.
For six years, nearly 4,000 Atlanta students had opportunities to match their dreams and they didn’t need a “Sugar Daddy”. The reductions in scholarship funding puts added stress on students, their families, the colleges and it ultimately robs our city and our nation of its greatest asset……its people.