News: College Access & Success

How One Student Used Her Own Experience to Become a Financial Aid Advocate

Thursday, August 1, 2019  
Posted by: Lindsay Broderick, Staff Writer
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Many students enter community college with the intention of transferring, but for a variety of reasons, not all students are able to stay on the path to a bachelor’s degree. Among community college students who enrolled in fall 2010, 31.5% transferred to a four-year institution within six years, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Layne Boyd is one student who has beaten the odds – she is transferring from Northwest-Shoals Community College to Mississippi State University in the fall.

As the daughter of teachers, Layne knew paying for college would be a struggle, based on her family’s income. She tried to plan accordingly.

Filling her schedule with Advanced Placement and college-level courses in high school, Layne was constantly prepping for higher education. (Her dream since childhood has been to become a doctor.) She recognized the resource she had in her high school counselors: “I was in their office nearly every day asking for help,” Layne said. “They really helped me line everything up and apply for scholarships.”

Financial aid was the most significant factor in her college search. Although her parents had relatively limited incomes, the amount was still considered too much by the federal government for Layne to receive any grant aid.

“I felt very frustrated because even though my parents are both teachers, we still struggle on a middle-class income,” said Layne.

She then learned about the option of community college.

“I got advice [from my high school counselor] that going to community college was awesome, and they were right,” Layne said. “It was an awesome idea because I saved so much money, and it has prepared me for my next step to a four-year college and my future career.”

During her time at Northwest-Shoals, Layne was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year colleges. After joining, Layne became an officer for her chapter and served on the regional level for the state of Alabama. The group completes two projects each year: an honors national project and a college project. This year, their college project focused on increasing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates among local high school students.

Layne’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa teamed up with NCAN member Alabama Possible, a familiar partner for the group, to work in local high schools.

Through previous collaborations with Alabama Possible, the members of Phi Theta Kappa received training on how to help high school students complete the FAFSA and how to answer questions regarding the college application process.

FAFSA completion rates improved so much by the end of the project that Layne and her peers were invited to present it to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s policy staff. “They were very interested in what we had to say,” Layne said.

Beyond their work in high schools, Layne and her group worked as peer tutors for their fellow students at Northwest-Shoals.

“Students I went to college with struggled because they didn’t have a steady financial background. Some of them were already single mothers that really didn’t have any other caretaker for their child,” Layne said. “It was devastating to see, but a positive side of that was they were determined to find help. And that’s why you have all these organizations, like Alabama Possible, who help these individuals who may not have access to all the resources they need. They can turn their lives around; they just need a little help with it because sometimes the circumstances they’re in require more support.”

Reflecting on her experiences and those of people she has helped, Layne said: “I would like to tell others that if they have a dream in their heart, they have to do everything in their might to accomplish it. And when they do accomplish it, it will be worth it because they are making a change, not only in their community, but in our country because they’re its future.”

Layne will be starting her junior year at Mississippi State University in the fall on a pre-med track. She is majoring in biology.