This is the seventh installment in a series featuring how students foot the bill for their college degree. Over several months, The Bee has tracked five students to show how they pay for college, whether it’s competing for scholarships or grants, working at on-campus or off-campus jobs, relying on help from their families or taking out loans. They’ve opened their books so we can see how they’ve managed the costs. Today’s graphic illustrates how much each student shells out for school and living expenses compared with how much they bring in from financial aid, jobs or family help.
A college education is so important to Jesse Diaz, he and his two children are living on $26,000 a year while he is enrolled in Modesto Junior College's nursing program.
Diaz said he's an example of how someone with little financial support can go to college. The fear that they can't afford tuition, textbooks and rent keeps many Central Valley residents from attending college.
To slash costs, students could live with their parents, Diaz suggested. Without rent or utilities to cover, they can save $4,000 to $10,000 a year.
"Don't ever say that you can't," he said. "Anything is possible if you put your mind to it."
Diaz admits that he has to sacrifice by buying clothes at thrift stores or scrimping on food, but he said a few years of pinching pennies is worth decades of living more comfortably.
Having lost both parents, Blanca Blanco is on her own in paying for college. Her older brother pays for Blanco's car insurance and helps occasionally, but it's mainly up to the 20-year-old. To cover about $13,000 in college and living expenses last school year, Blanco earned $12,000 from scholarships, grants and a part-time job on campus.
"It is affordable," said Blanco, who's studying sociology at MJC and plans to transfer in the spring to California State University, Stanislaus. "It is hard. You have these months where you're living off credit cards (for unexpected expenses). But overall, it is affordable, but you have to make budgets."
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.