CAMP covers first year expenses, reduces aid in subsequent years

Maia Samboy

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Some College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) students have been struggling with financial problems despite aid.

CAMP is a federal program designed to help families of migratory farm workers gain a higher education. Established in 1972, the St. Edward’s branch of CAMP is the oldest ongoing university program for migrant education in the country, and currently the only branch that belongs to a private institution in the nation.

Aid recipients at St. Edward’s, also known as “CAMPers,” have all but $2,000 of their school fees paid during their freshman year. Costs from tuition to housing are paid under federal funding and/or by the university itself, contingent on St. Edward’s credit and GPA requirements.

After students’ freshman year, the scholarship no longer funds book, lab and technology fees, utilities, a portion of housing costs and other expenses that come with being a full-time student.

This leaves the full cost of tuition, $40,428 this year, and a small housing stipend as the only expenses covered.

“Paying these expenses is one of the biggest challenges that these students face,” CAMP Director Esther Yacono said.

Yacano also says that students cannot stay in school without paying these expenses. And this means balancing classes with jobs to pay for school.

Some CAMP students need to pay for more than just their own living expenses.

“In addition to whatever costs they have here, some students have to send money back home to their parents,” Yacono said.

As a result of being required to pay a portion of housing costs, some CAMP students decide to move off campus.

“A lot of CAMP students decide to live off campus their second year because it’s cheaper, but that might not be the best idea for some students,” said Gilbert Contreras, an academic counselor for CAMP students.

This can cause students to stress over how they will manage their time and causes studying to become a lower priority, Contreras said. 

While students outside the program face similar struggles, many face the additional challenge of not having financial assistance from their families.

“My parents are in a place where they can’t financially help me as much as they would like, so it falls on me to pay for my schooling,” said Sarahi Enriquez, a second year CAMP student.

“If we could figure out a way to get [CAMP students] to stay on campus or provide a bigger housing stipend, I think that would increase retention in the second through fifth years,” Contreras said.

The issue is that the federal government has exhausted all resources toward the program, Contreras said.

 “Another option would be for the school to put in more money,” he said. He also recognized this is not an option due to the fact that the university is “maxed out” on what it can offer.

“The only other option [left] is private funding,” Contreras said.

The program has made efforts to receive private funding.

“We have applied to some here and there, and we have gotten some for different programs like the Johnson-Turpin Scholarship…but it is just hard to find those sources for funding,” Contreras said.  

In 2014, the program received a $1.1 million gift from Luci Baines Johnson, a St. Edward’s alumni and daughter of president Lyndon Baines Johnson, and her husband, Ian Turpin, a member on the St. Edward’s University Board of Trustees.

The Johnson-Turpin Scholarship will help 10-12 students annually and go towards funding activities CAMP students are often unable to partake in, such as career mentoring, summer research and internship opportunities. 

While some CAMP students withdraw due to financial and personal reasons, the graduation rate of students in CAMP closely resembles the graduation rate of all other St. Edward’s students.

CAMP graduation rates range from 50 to 70 percent, Yacono said.

The 2015-16, six-year graduation rate of St. Edward’s students was 63.3 percent. The four year rate was 51.6 percent, according to Institutional Research.

Despite financial problems some CAMP students face, the program continues to be in good standing with students like Enriquez.

“I love the CAMP program at St. Ed’s,” Enriquez said. “It has been very helpful, especially my freshman year. The staff are very willing to help CAMPers and they help us as much as they can.”