Funding an Artist's Education

Hi there,

My name is Dillon. I am a Fine Arts undergraduate student of Purdue University, Indiana, with a concentration in Drawing/Illustration. I work full-time as a barista at a local coffee shop, and have three children that I work very hard to provide for. I am almost done with my BA, and am raising money to pay for my final semester. I aim to continue my education in grad school so that I may eventually find a stable job teaching others. However, my progress has been recently halted as a result of the undoubtedly flawed bureaucracy organizing the university.

THE SYSTEM

At the end of the fall semester of my senior year in 2016 I was told I needed 15 credit hours to graduate. Generally, this would hardly be an issue. However, as an art student all of my remaining credits were studio courses. Each studio course is no less than 3 hours per session, twice a week. Unfortunately, Purdue, an engineering school, has a limited selection of studio courses available each semester, making a schedule like this impossible. Not to mention faculty generally advises against taking three studio courses at a time due to the work load; a five-studio schedule is unheard of.

To remedy this, I suggested splitting my remaining credits into two semesters, and planned to graduate in December of 2017. Getting approval, I scheduled my courses accordingly and started my spring semester 2017. Half-way through the semester I was notified by the Financial Aid Department that my funding was being revoked for unsatisfactory academic progress (not completing my degree fast enough), and not being registered for enough credits (despite previous approval).

They let me finish the semester, but put a hold on my grades and transcripts, and stuck me with an outstanding balance of $2,337.10 for the semester. I was told this wouldn’t be a problem, as long as I registered for classes in the fall and applied my financial aid refund to my account. When I attempted to do so I was told by the university that my finances were to be audited via the IRS. Anyone who has ever dealt with the IRS directly knows that this process can be and extremely long and frustrating. This was the case with my experience; despite not having any money to speak of, the audit took the entirety of that summer and prevented me from registering for the 2017 fall semester.

With a measly hourly wage, I was doing all I could to pay the bills and support for my children; I was unable to pay the outstanding balance to Purdue out of pocket. I discussed my situation with university administration and they gave me a laundry list of letters, appeals, and whatnot to maintain a good standing with Purdue, prevent my balance from defaulting, and allow me to register for the remaining 6 credits necessary for graduation. I did all that was asked of me, spoke with every department and submitted every appeal. The day after, I was contacted by a debt collector. The university had sent my outstanding balance to the financial service immediately after I had worked out a plan to pay it and finish my degree. I am now required to pay the debt collector before the university will release any holds on my account and allow me to register.

In addition to the outstanding balance with Purdue, I have accrued an additional $1000 in fees from the debt collector that must be paid. Following that, I will have to find out how to pay for my final semester, which is estimated at about $4,996.00. This is not including additional fees like books and materials, living expenses, child support, or the loss of income while attending class.

THE PERSON

I will be honest, like most college students, I have made a lot of bad decisions over the last several years. Unlike most college students, my poor decision-making skills may have been more severe. I landed myself in jail multiple times, succumbed to substance abuse, and even put myself in the hospital. However, I faced my consequences with the law, rehabilitated from addiction, and recovered from an accident that almost left me paralyzed. As much as I faltered, I did a damn good job. Excluding the classes I had to drop, I maintained a 3.6 GPA at Purdue. I published an abstract in the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research. I presented and spoke at academic colloquiums. I participated in an honors fraternity. I worked for the Purdue Galleries to gain more experience in my field. I produced excellent artwork, and participated in the Senior Exhibition. I helped raise my three children. I never gave up.

I need 6 credit hours, that’s two college courses, to get my degree. I am so close to having that piece of paper that says I am a success. I have worked so hard and been through so much. It will be a glorious day when I can say that I graduated college, and I can move forward. It’s frustrating; the one thing preventing me from reaching my goal is a couple bucks. All I need is a little help. Your financial assistance, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated. My deadline to register for the spring 2018 is fast approaching (1/8/18). If I am unable to raise the money by then I will plan on registering in March for the following fall semester.

If you would like to see some of the work I have done you can visit my website at www.dillonmills.com. I am open for commission and most of my artwork is for sale. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you would like to hear more about me and my experiences feel free to contact me.

- D
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Organizer

Dillon Mills 
Organizer
Lafayette, IN
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