Special needs college student deemed ineligible for federal student loans

Special needs college student deemed ineligible for federal student loans
Michael Allen (Source: Family)
Michael Allen (Source: Family)

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - An East Ascension High School graduate who stole his classmates' hearts with his smooth moves on the dance floor is asking the public to help him get to college. He recently learned that he is not eligible for federal student loans, and his parents said they do not have the money to pay his way.

Michael Allen, like most first-time college freshmen, is eager to move out of his parents' house and be on his own. He is almost done packing.

"I've got most of my stuff, except my clothes," Allen said.

Allen is headed to Nicholls State University.

"He has been so excited. He has been looking forward to this since graduation," Carter said.

Lisa Carter said her son's journey has been a little tougher than others. Allen has special needs. He was born 13 weeks early weighing just two pounds, four ounces. His mother said he was born with a condition called hydrocephalus, which causes fluid to build on the brain.

It is a miracle he survived. A true testament to faith and a good fight, that he made it this far. Michael is an athlete, sings in his church choir and in high school earned the nickname, Moon Walker Mike.

"I'm very proud of him. He's worked hard. At one point, we didn't even think this (college) was an option," Carter said.

College became a real possibility earlier this year when Carter discovered the Bridge to Independence program at Nicholls. The two-year program is designed to help students with intellectual disabilities learn the skills they need to have successful careers. But just days before, Michael was set to start the fall semester, his mother said, she learned students who participate in the program are not eligible to apply for federal loans, neither are their parents.

The cost to send Michael to school is $40,000 for the two years.

"That kind of left us in a bind," Carter said.

Her only other option is to take out a high-interest loan. Carter said it has been especially hard for Michael who has been talking about going to college nonstop since he was six years old.

"He asked me the other day, mom what am I going to do if I can't go to school, and really I didn't have an answer for him," Carter said.

Carter has written a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to reconsider the loan option for students like Michael.

"If I say I want to invest in my child's education I should have that right," Carter said.

Meantime, Carter has set up a GoFundMe page asking people to help her raise at least half of the money to cover Michael's tuition. She has raised just over $3,600 so far. But they still have a long way to go. Michael is counting on friends, even strangers to make his dream a reality.

"Thank you very much. I love and appreciate the way you have been helping me. I love you guys. God bless you," Michael said.

Click here to access Michael's GoFundMe page.

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