FAFSA Story Series: Izeah Garcia

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By: The Campaign for College Opportunity

Izeah Garcia is a 20 year-old first generation Mexican-American student completing his fourth year at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a political science major.

As the youngest of four boys, Izeah was the second in his family to graduate from high school and the first to attend college.  He credits three positive influences as helping him get to college:  his family’s encouragement,  “luck of the draw” mentorship he received along the way, and, of course, financial aid.

Given his family’s economic hardships, Izeah only applied to universities which would allow him to obtain a degree without having to take on too much debt.  He did his research, applied and waited to hear back.  His choices, based on costs, were narrowed to three: UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara University, or community college.  The latter was his way of reasoning that he could continue his education at a lower cost and then transfer to the school of his choosing.

Fortunately, because of financial aid, he chose UC Santa Barbara without having to take out too many loans his first year.  The road to acquiring aid, however, hasn’t been easy.  Izeah described his first experience applying for financial aid as “swinging at a baseball with your eyes wide shut.” Partly because the FAFSA forms are overly complicated, and partly because his mother has a unique economic situation.  She has been on disability for several years and does not file for taxes, so reporting his family’s income has been difficult.  Izeah does his due diligence each year to accurately report on it and get as much information as he needs.

He has been audited on several occasions and asked to supply supplemental information.  Often, the information he is asked to provide is vague, which has resulted in multiple visits to the financial aid office and delays in receiving aid.  As Izeah describes, he has seen many of his friends, colleagues, and even roommate wrestle with the same cumbersome system.

Nonetheless, Izeah has been thriving at UC Santa Barbara.  He has become involved on campus– serving as President of the Campus Democrats and Chair of the student government’s Lobby Corps–and has been excelling in his studies.  He credits financial aid as the single factor which has allowed him to be so involved and focus on his education.

Izeah sees his position as a university student as a privilege, recognizing that many of his hometown friends and relatives did not have the same opportunities to obtain the education and experience that will prepare him for future success. Thus, he does not take his education for granted and instead, focuses his time to give back and is sure to not take out loans unless it’s necessary. Izeah’s experience at college has reaffirmed his commitment to help low-income communities find economic mobility and opportunities.

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