Collateral Costs of Continuing College

Hello everyone.  My name is Lukaz. I am an artist, a developer, and a Comp-Sci student, based in the Bay Area. I recently went back to school and am currently working hard to obtain my degree. With hard work, careful budgeting, and by signing an income share agreement, I've managed to pay this years tuition & dorm costs,  but those are not the only costs I have to bear with as I continue my education. The collateral costs of of college add up and cause undue stress. After managing the biggest costs myself, I have next to nothing left to cover food, transportation, clothes, misc bills,  and emergencies.

 As a low-income, formerly homeless, gay man of color,  I have faced many challenges and  I know I will face many more in the future, but I also have so much potential that I want to maximize as I continue on my path to tech.

Your support means helping bring more diversity into tech, starting with one person.

How I Got Here

Years ago, I was working two jobs to support myself and my partner, while struggling to save up to one day go back to school.  After unexpectedly losing both my jobs and my partner I was left with nothing. I decided that with nothing left to lose, I should pursue my dream of being a software engineer. I made my way to California with $400 in my pocket and only what I could carry. 

The struggles didn't stop there. After arriving It was very hard to get anywhere near the career I wanted. I worked odd jobs and  studied programming however I could. For a time It seemed like it was all for nothing but I persisted. After a time I found out about a non-profit in Oakland, Hack the Hood, who's goal was to help people like me get into the tech industry. I immediately applied for their coding bootcamp, but became very sick. A few months after moving to California, my doctors informed me of a small growth on the tissue behind my lungs. This was when I found out that I had  a soft tissue sarcoma. I had early stage cancer. For nearly a year, while doctor's ran tests and provided treatment, I was unable to work as often as I wanted and spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals and doctors offices.  With no friends or family around I didn't know what to do.

This was a major set back and it felt like the end of the world to me. Luckily, I was eventually able to undergo surgery and have the growth removed and got better. Though the time lost made me feel like I was only moving backward. Eventually I did end up attending Hack the Hood's bootcamp and my drive to become a great engineer only grew stronger. In the coming years I would go on to attend several bootcamps and intern for companies like Google, Cruise, and Youth Radio. I was even asked at one point to come back to Hack the Hood to create and teach a class focused on the Raspberry Pi after making a connection at the Raspberry Pi foundation.  Following that, I attended General Assembly's Web Development Immersive, but even after completing the course finding the work I wanted in tech was still a struggle.

I spent quite a bit of time freelancing, working short contracts that helped me get by and volunteering. While assisting at a tech summer campI received an email about a school, where many of the students had come through similar situations to my own and I decided to apply, not at all thinking I would get in. To my surprise I was accepted but this small victory was bittersweet.

Tuition was around $40,000 and to make matters worse, my lease was up and I could not fathom a way to afford to live in San Francisco, so that I could be close to classes. Luckily I had a little saved by this time and by signing an ISA and disregarding nearly everything else I managed to afford both tuition and the cost of a dorm.

That brings us to now. Classes have started, and the cost of living bares it's fangs. Travel to get to and from school, supplies, clothes, food, medicine, etc. All things I have no room in my budget for. My classes are from 9am - 5pm. I have to look for side jobs and contracts once again, only now with the caveat that I don't have the availability required to work for most places now. 8 hours for class, 2 - 4 hours to study and handle projects, plus travel time between classes and doctors appointments, and giving whatever scraps of time left to sleep makes finding adequate work highly improbable if not  near impossible.

But why help me?

College has always been expensive, and life is hard for everyone. There are hundreds of students struggling to get by so why help me? Because I'm not just in this for myself. I'm just one small part, one step, toward a more diverse industry. After graduating I plan to give back to the community. I want to take the knowledge and skills I gain here and use them to help elevate others who have gone through struggles. I want to be one of the voices in the industry to speak up for the under represented. LGBTQ+, people of color, low income, homeless youth, and more.  

I want to make a difference, I want to help others, and I want to spark change. If I can make it through this, I promise I will never stop doing all I can to help those that I can. 

I will continue to work with and support companies like: 

Hack the Hood
Youth Radio
Berkeley Youth Alternative
Youth Employment Partnership
Covenant House
Fred Finch
and more...

For me this is about much more than supporting myself. This is about supporting those who don't get the chances and opportunities afforded to others. In order for me to elevate anyone else, I, myself, have to be better and make it through this.


  • Emily Dong 
    • $38 
    • 1 mo
  • Monikka de la Zerda 
    • $40 
    • 1 mo
  • Amanda Whitford 
    • $20 
    • 1 mo


Lukaz Phelps 
San Francisco, CA
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