For Clark Atlanta student, rising college costs hit home

11:43 PM, Aug 23, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- For the past two days, President Barack Obama has traveled to three college campuses with a simple message: it's time to make college more affordable.

The President kicked off his first-ever bus tour Thursday afternoon, speaking at the University of Buffalo. Friday, he addressed students at Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY, taking questions in a town hall setting.

"Over the last three decades, the cost of higher education has gone up 260 percent at a time when family incomes have gone up about 16 percent," Obama said. 

"So either college is becoming out of reach for a lot of people, or young people are being loaded with more and more debt."

For one incoming freshman at Clark Atlanta University, the pain of rising college costs is all too real.

Derek Garner says he has only days to produce more than $7000 to pay for the rest of his tuition, or he must leave campus. Desperate to raise money, his sister created this webpage, hoping to receive donations.

"We did private loans, we did Sallie Mae loans, we tried every loan basically, and they denied us," Garner said. "I tried programs through school, but my GPA wasn't high enough."

Garner's sister, Unique Robinson, told 11Alive's Blayne Alexander they've already paid $8000 toward tuition, but are unable to raise the rest.

"We don't have help from our parents or anyone. It's just her and I and we've done all that we could," Garner said. 

"I've always wanted to go to Clark Atlanta University. My mother has three boys and two girls; I'm the only boy who graduated high school and the only one who's attending college."

In a statement to 11Alive, Clark Atlanta said the school has "exhausted all efforts" to help.

"We deeply regret when a student expresses that CAU is his or her choice, but has to return home when financial options are not sufficient," the statement read, adding that in a struggling economy, this is a reality at many schools nationwide, not just Clark Atlanta University.

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