By Sarah Carr
"One senior, for instance, qualified for a state scholarship that provided full tuition at a two-year technical or community college. The student couldn’t access the money, however, because he lived on his own and had no parent or guardian to sign for him. Bailey tried to register him as “homeless” so he could sign his own forms. She discovered it took mountains of paperwork even to qualify as homeless—particularly since one of the boy’s grandmothers had falsely claimed him as a dependent on recent tax forms. “We have a lot of kids who just don’t fit in the federal government parameters of what’s a family, what’s a parent,” Bailey said.
"The scholarship parameters also weren’t designed with a thorough understanding of what low-income students are up against. TOPS promises qualifying students a free ride if they earn a 2.5 grade point average and score at least a 20 on the ACT. But the scholarship fails to cover numerous expenses, and this keeps many low-income students from even starting college. One Walker student planned to attend Louisiana State University through a state scholarship. But the grant did not cover the $150 he needed to get on a wait list for a dorm room, or the housing deposit. Bailey delved into the student’s financials, trying to figure out when his next paycheck from Taco Bell would clear so he would not miss the deposit deadline and find himself homeless in Baton Rouge."