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Federation Offers Scholarships to Students Struggling to Afford to Finish College

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There are many financial aid options for students who are starting college, but fewer for those who are trying to finish. NY1's Lindsey Christ reports on one organization trying to correct that imbalance.

The odds are against Carlos Montañez graduating from college, but that's exactly what he's determined to do this year.

"It's a huge hardship for me because I have to overcome a lot of obstacles, and for my family, they couldn't afford me going to college," he said.

Half the students who graduate from city public schools immediately enroll in college, but most aren't finishing.

At Brooklyn College, where Montañez is studying broadcast journalism, just 23 percent of students graduate within four years, and only 13 percent of Hispanic students.

Montañez lives in public housing and is the first in his family to even attempt to earn a higher degree. He's now about a year away from graduation, but the closer he gets to the finish line, the harder it's become to pay the bills.

"They begin in their freshman year, their sophomore year," said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. "Often, they're given scholarships. Sometimes, their parents have saved up money for them to go to college. And what happens is, they get to their junior year or their senior and they don't have enough money to complete their studies. And sometimes, they, they drop out. Sometimes it takes them longer. Often, they give up hope when it takes longer."

So on Thursday, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies awarded Montañez, and 10 other city students, scholarship money to help fund the last year or two.

"College students who otherwise might drop out of school because they don't have the resources to keep going," Austin said.

For Montañez, the $2,000 award will cover almost half his senior year. For other recipients, it will help them pay off money they already owe.

"I'm going into adulthood, and, you know, it's like one day, you're a child, and the next day, you have bills and you have loans and you don't know where all this money's going to come from, and you need to pay for things," said Patricia Vazquez, a student at Wheaton College. "And so I felt really bad and I felt really stressed because I had no idea how I was going to do this."

The scholarship is designed to recognize students who have already overcome significant obstacles, and it rewards them by removing one more.

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