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Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust!

College or Bust!

Jamie Barnes, College & Career Coordinator


One of the best parts of my job as the College & Career Coordinator for Hope House is taking our teen moms on college campus tours. I love nothing more than seeing their eyes light up with excitement as they see new possibilities for their own future… a future they never imagined!

“Can you believe that I’m going to college? I never thought this would be me in a million years!”   

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that statement of wonder at the end of a college tour. I also get to witness a new zest for life. 

The sad truth is that many teen moms are told that they won’t amount to much in life and will be lucky if they even make it through high school. It’s my job to expand their perception of reality, and a college tour is a great tool for showing a teen mom that she is capable of anything she puts her mind to -- even going to college. 

The next step is completing the online entrance and financial aid applications for their college of choice. Unfortunately, this process often leads to frustration and anxiety because online college applications are not user friendly. Expect to run into issue after issue, requiring patience, dedication and perseverance. 

The biggest hurdle stems from the section of the application that requires information about the teen mom’s parents (required for all applicants under age 23). 

This doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, but it is!  Our teen moms often come from non-traditional families or have been raised by a grandparent, aunt or even a sibling.  Some of them haven’t had contact with their parents in years.  Submitting an application without her parent’s information automatically puts her in the “out-of-state residency” category for tuition.

The ramifications are significant. Labeled an out-of-state resident, her tuition is higher -- sometimes twice as much as an in-state resident. 

The most frustrating part of this process is that each teen mom I have helped is in fact a resident of Colorado and generally has been for years, if not for all of her life.  However, because they cannot answer information about their parents, they are wrongly flagged.  To compound matters, Colorado is one of the most difficult states in the nation for proving residency.

I am currently working with Maria, a Hope House teen mom, to change her residency status to in-state. 

Maria’s story is fairly common. She moved to Colorado three years ago.  Her parents, who live in another state, basically disowned her and her son when she 17, offering her no support whatsoever. 

The financial aid process I am walking Maria through, step by step, is time consuming and filled with many pages of paperwork and required documents. 

The first step is proving she is a Colorado resident by “Petitioning for In-State Tuition.” The necessary documentation includes five different items demonstrating that she has lived in Colorado for at least one year.

We also have to get notarized forms from her parents stating that they haven’t financially helped Maria in any way for at least one year -- otherwise known as Emancipation for Tuition Purposes. 

This is proving to be extremely difficult because her parents are not cooperative. Maria is at their mercy and the clock is ticking. If we do not submit these documents before the first day of classes, Maria will not be able to attend school. Talk about discouraging!

Without in-state residency, Maria simply cannot afford to go school because the funds she receives through FAFSA (Pell Grant) and the College Opportunity Fund cover most of in-state tuition costs but fall far short of covering out-of-state tuition rates.

This is just one teen mom’s story. There are many more like it! It’s frustrating and discouraging, which is why it’s very important that I don’t lose heart. It has also proven important for me to make friends with the Financial Aid Departments on every campus in our area. In fact, I have “go-to” people on each of our four local community college campuses. They help me jump through hoop after hoop, proving the importance of these relationships.

The process of getting a teen mom into college will be an ongoing challenge. However, it is one we must be willing to face head on because our teen moms depend on us. They need us to advocate for them and help them pursue their education. Their future depends on it!

When the days get long and the battle seems relentless, I remember these words: “I never thought I would be going to college!” This revelation and the sheer joy on a teen mom’s face as we walk around a college campus is what makes the fight so very worth it!

This is what it’s all about… changing lives one document at a time.


Financial Aid:  Community College of Denver

Financial Aid:  Front Range Community College

Financial Aid:  Red Rocks Community College

Financial Aid:  Emily Griffith Technical College

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Blog Archives

January 2018

Organizational Growth Cycles: Stages that Lead to a Mature Nonprofit - 01/23/2018

November 2017

Knowledge Share #19: Creating Unity: The Power of Mealtime - 11/20/2017

October 2017

Knowledge Share #18: The Power of Networking - 10/12/2017

September 2017

Knowledge Share #18: Engaging the Millennial Generation - 09/19/2017

August 2017

Knowledge Share #17: When the Dream Seems Too Big - 08/17/2017

July 2017

Knowledge Share #16: Personalized Learning - The Cornerstone of our GED Program - 07/18/2017

June 2017

Knowledge Share #15: Special Needs and Special Moms - 06/08/2017

April 2017

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children - 04/18/2017

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017

February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017

January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017

November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016

September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016

August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016

July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016

June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016

May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016

April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016

March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016

February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016

January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016

December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015

October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015

July 2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015

May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015

April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015

February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015

January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015

December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014

October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014

September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014

July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014

June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014

May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014

April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014

March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014

February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014

January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014

December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013

November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013

September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013

August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013

July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013

June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013

May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


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