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August 15, 2013 12:22 PM How the Poor Have to Pay for College

By Daniel Luzer

From the Huffington Post comes a theoretically awe-inspiring story of a man who used crowd sourcing to pay his way to college. We should maybe wonder why he needed to.

According to the piece:

“From homeless to Howard” might sound like the title of a movie, but for 19-year-old James Ward, this is his reality — though it still feels like a dream. Ward, a resident of Los Angeles, will be able to matriculate at the historically black college this fall thanks to an online campaign he launched just last week called “Homeless To Howard.”
To date, the efforts have raised $12,000, enough to handle his first-year expenses not covered by loans or grants. The bigger goal is to raise the funds for all four years of college. But for the moment, just having enough to cover the first year, Ward said, is beyond what he expected.

Ward has grants and loans to cover 70 percent of the roughly $32,165 needed to attend Howard University. He needed another $12,000 for “books and supplies, transportation and other incidentals.”

Ward is really poor:

Since the age of 14, Ward, along with his mom and two younger siblings, has been homeless in California. When times were really hard, they lived in his mom’s car, but otherwise they’ve moved between different shelters and relatives’ homes until they secured a spot at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood in February 2012.

Ward said that he was really inspired by the generosity of strangers who contributed to his effort. He was also probably significantly helped by marketing efforts by Teach For America and the rapper Common.

“It makes me feel very happy, Ward explained, “because I know that although the world may seem like a harsh and cold place, there are some people out there that care and want to give to those in need.”

Wow, that’s sure an inspiring tale of a man’s attempts to overcome the great obstacles society has thrown at him.

Society and, well, Howard University itself. If he was living at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles why wasn’t Howard offering him enough financial aid to attend college? And why does his aid package include debt?

Hey, look at that. Howard recently started construction on new dormitories and an “Interdisciplinary Research Building” that will cost 107 million! I wonder the school pays for stuff like that.

This actually is a pretty amazing story, and we should all wish Ward the best. (And maybe give him some more money.) But the problem is he had to crowd source the money at all. This is how many colleges treat America’s poor students. They saddle them with loans and leave them with $12,000 in unmet costs.

How many James Wards are there who don’t have a successful online campaign?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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