Nezzie Garcia poses for a photo.
Innezz “Nezzie” Garcia’s employer - a busy, understaffed surgery center in the Twin Cities - recently offered her a promotion. But, it came with a catch. To accept it, she would need to go back to school to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA. Nezzie wanted to accept the new role, so she charged the $1000 fee to her credit card and enrolled in a nursing course at Anoka Ramsey Community College.
However, once the January session began, Nezzie was stretched too thin. Between working both a part-time and a full-time job, parenting her step-child, moving to a new apartment, and an unexpected health issue causing her to have to put her cat down and pay nearly $1500 in veterinary bills, she got behind on classroom hours and was forced to withdraw from the program a few weeks in. These unforeseen circumstances and expenses meant additional stress, and the money she put toward the program went down the drain.
With Nezzie’s program, even missing a week can cause you to be dropped from the program as there are a certain number of required classroom and working hours. Her instructor expects students to spend 35 hours on the course learning management system, which doesn’t include class time. This amounts to about three hours of homework between sessions, nearing 10 hours of outside work per week. Navigating college through the COVID-19 pandemic has been an additional challenge. With more things being on an online platform, understanding how to fill out the FAFSA, register for classes, and even navigate the campus has been challenging. And the cost if you don’t figure it all out is high, because the course is non-refundable if you are dropped with an “incomplete” on your transcript.
Fortunately, her employer allowed her to accept the new position anyway if she takes the certification course next semester. Still, Nezzie is now in debt. The cost of college, on top of astronomical housing, grocery, and transportation costs, have put her in an untenable position. Not to mention another necessary cost - health insurance. Nezzie’s health insurance is provided by her employer, but so much is taken out of her paycheck every two weeks that it makes it hard for her to afford her other expenses. Her co-pay is so high, that if she needed to go to the doctor, even though she has insurance, she still wouldn’t be able to afford it.
“On paper, I make too much money to receive any help. But every month when I budget it out, I look to see where all my money goes and I still don’t have enough to live. And that’s just discouraging. I work, work, work, and just wonder am I always going to be in this situation? Where I’m constantly working and still not able to afford my basic needs?”
For now, Nezzie still plans to re-enroll and complete her CNA training, but affording college alongside all of life’s other expenses will not be easy.