First generation student talks financial aid, college admission scandal

Emily Hernandez

Editor’s note: These stories are a part of a “First-Gen UT” callout for student responses following the admissions scandal earlier this year. Two more stories from this callout will be published tomorrow. “First-Gen UT” is a yearlong collaborative series that shares the stories of first-generation Longhorns. Stories are published in partnership with The Daily Texan and the UT chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists,  National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association and Association of LGBTQ Journalists.

As a first-generation college student, government sophomore Evelyn Garcia said she is angered that while she “kicked her own butt” to get into UT, a student was able to pay his way in. 

“You have no idea how much I begged for tutoring, how much I wanted an SAT prep course and ACT prep, how much I wanted to stay in school at all times because I felt more focused there,”
Garcia said. 

Despite not having those resources, Garcia worked hard to get into UT because she feels like a “safety net” for her family, and hopes to one day provide for them as they currently sacrifice their health to help provide for her education.

“My goal in life is to be able to pay back my parents or support them when they get to an age where they can’t do their jobs anymore,” Garcia said. “If they were to need it, they could ask me for money and I could be like, ‘Here’s everything you need.’”

Garcia said her parents have sacrificed health treatment to help pay for her education in addition to supporting her two teenage siblings. Garcia also works two jobs and takes 12 hours of coursework, totaling to about 37 hours for work and school weekly.

“I don’t like that they’re putting their health aside in order to push forward our education,” Garcia said. “I wish I could do something about it, but there’s only so much money I can make.”

Garcia has to do this because when she initially received her Free Application for Federal Student Aid package, she thought she qualified for about $12,000 per semester, but then she realized about half came from parent PLUS loans, or loans made on behalf of her parents’ income. Since her parents do not qualify for these loans, she is forced to decline about half of her financial aid.

“Because I didn’t really understand … what the financial papers or any of it meant, I was like, I’ll be fine,” Garcia said. “I definitely think the smartest thing to have done is apply to more schools that … would’ve given me more financial aid.”

Garcia said she thinks it would be unfair for the University to allow the student who bribed his way into UT to graduate.

“The amount of privilege these people have because they have money is ridiculous,” Garcia said. “You’re using your resources wrong. How do you have all that opportunity and resources and still choose to go the easy route?”