You never realize how important school is until someone tells you that you can’t go anymore. You think back to all the times you complained about professors giving you homework or about how you have so many research papers to write. I never thought in a million years that I would find myself actually missing that.
My only option for school was to wait until I was 24 years old, find a way to get deployed, get married and have children, or somehow track down my long lost father and hope he will fill it out for me. These were the only choices I had to file independently for education benefits that were owed to me be the National Guard.
I have been in the NJ National Guard for the past 5 years. A huge benefit of joining the guard is that you get your tuition waived. However, to receive this benefit you must file for financial aid using your parent’s information if you are under the age of 24. This is where all my troubles began.
The Department of Education has a law that states you can only file for financial aid independently using your information if you fulfill the following requirements; over the age of 24, married or have children, an emancipated minor, a Veteran, or currently serving active duty. I do not fall into any of these categories. I am just a traditional Guardsmen; I have never deployed before to get Veteran status and at the time I was just 21 years old. I was never married and I don’t have any children.
In Fall 2018 I was denied the ability to register for the spring semester because Rutgers would not grant my tuition waiver. My parents and I do not get along. I never knew my father; he left us when I was very young and growing up, I always had issues with my mother. I needed my mom to file my financial aid so I could sign up for classes in the spring and get my tuition paid for; she refused due to our relationship at the time. I literally had no one else to go to and when I spoke to Rutgers about the situation, they said there was nothing they could do and they would not grant me the waiver unless I had a parent fill it out. My only option for school was to wait until I was 24 years old, find a way to get deployed, get married and have children, or somehow track down my long lost father and hope he will fill it out for me. These were the only choices I had to file independently for education benefits that were owed to me be the National Guard.
I did my part by serving in the military, and at the time I just felt that the Department of Education was not doing their part.
This whole situation sounded unreasonable to me because I have been independent from my mother since I was 18 years old. I have a full-time civilian job, my own place, and I even have filed my own taxes since that age. The idea that 24 is the age for independency is outrageous. In addition to the fact that National Guard members can literally be denied their tuition waiver if their parents refuse to file financial aid and if they are also under the age of 24. I joined the military to start a career in medicine and get my education paid for. It just seems very unfair that a 17-year-old active-duty member can file independently, but me being 23 now, in the Air Force National Guard, and currently living on my own, still have to use my parent’s financial information to get school paid for. I have always supported myself and it didn’t make sense to me that I had to use my mother’s financial information to get a tuition waiver that should be granted to me. The same tuition waiver that is granted when I signed a contract for 6 years in the NJ National Guard. I did my part by serving in the military, and at the time I just felt that the Department of Education was not doing their part.
After hearing that I had to wait until I was 24 years old to go to back to college I was definitely hurt and disappointed. That would be three years of my life wasted just because my mother and I didn’t get along. I felt that the laws and the education system had really let me down and weren’t tailored for people with special circumstances like me. Not everyone has a cookie cutter, picture perfect life. Some people don’t talk to their parents for whatever reason it may be and they shouldn’t be punished for not having a relationship with them. What happened to me also made me realize how much power your parents have if you are under the age of 24. My mother literally caused me to drop out of school just because we weren’t getting along. I started to think about other students who may find themselves in the same situation for different reasons. Whether you are LGBTQ or dating outside of your race, these are just a few circumstances that some students may find themselves in and circumstances that also may upset their parents. These individuals shouldn’t have to change who they are and who they love just because their parents will have a say on whether they get to go to school or not.
I do not want to see this happen to another military member or anyone in general, what I went through just didn’t make sense. Plenty of people do not get along with their parents and I shouldn’t have been denied my waiver because of that. As traditional Guardsmen, especially members under 24; a lot of us do have full time jobs and are doing perfectly well taking care of ourselves. I feel that we should be treated the same as active duty, especially when it comes to our education. As someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, you shouldn’t be punished for just being yourself. A lot of people who come out may be disowned and it isn’t fair that the education laws give so much control to our parents. Like I said, you never realize how important school is until someone actually says you can no longer go. I was told to waste three years of my life without an education. The laws are one-sided and unjustifiable, something needs to change. This should have never happened and hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.