Opinion: All students should push for state-wide financial aid programs

Posted on Apr 21 2017 - 7:59am by Mikala Turner

Lower- and middle-class people obviously understand the struggle of attempting to afford the luxuries — and sometimes even the necessities— of life.

People with a limited income usually consider it a luxury to further their education past a high school diploma or GED.

Coming from a single-parent household that qualifies as lower-class, I understand the terrifying moment when one is weighing the options between the cost of attendance to a university or community college and the value of that education that awaits us.

Most of the time, unless they are okay with taking out loans, lower-class individuals must rely on their intelligence, as well as their financial need, to give them a way to afford college.

Although at points, some lower-class individuals barely miss the threshold for some achievement or income-based scholarships.

Education is not something that should only be for higher-income students who do not have to struggle as others do much for financial assistance. Systems like the new Excelsior Program in New York eliminate the idea that rich people are the only ones to whom universities cater.

This year, New York became the first state to enact a law that created the Excelsior Program, which gives students with an annual income of less than $100,000 a year completely free tuition.

But the program does have some added catches. The program’s benefits only seem to fill the gap after other federal and state financial aid have been factored into the payment. If a student were to have no additional aid other than the Excelsior Program, the benefits from this program would be much greater.

New York is the first place to pass a state-wide law like this, but our own university does have a program that is very much like the Excelsior Program.

The Ole Miss Opportunity (OMO) grant offered here at Ole Miss caters to students who have an income limitation of less than $30,000 a year and are Mississippi residents with at least a 3.0 high school GPA.

Though the OMO grant does provide immense opportunities and assistance to students with limited financial resources like myself, one must agree that making programs like the OMO and Excelsior a state-wide law would attract even more people to furthering their education.

We, as students, should all call for state-wide programs in Mississippi that can allow everyone access to equal education opportunities, no matter how low that person’s annual income may be.

Mikala Turner is a sophomore social work major from Bruce.