Think your college years were tough? Try doing finals week while living in your car.
It was a summer of sit-ins, protests and even sieges on UC campuses statewide. Tuition hikes brought the cost of a year at Cal to nearly $29,000.
Perhaps no one knows the struggles of staying in school more than 21-year-old David. The East Bay native and UC San Diego student, who asked that we not use his last name, has been homeless, living out of his car since the start of the semester in January.
“I really want to stay in school,” says David.
And now he may have some help. Since NBC San Diegoreported his plight, a couple offered him their spare room, and others are moving to help. Some compared his story to the recent movie The Blind Side.
David's grit is part of what inspired locals to help out. The computer-engineering student maintains a 3.5 GPA while juggling a brutal schedule. Weekdays he wakes up at 6, showers at the gym, then heads to class. During the day, he camps out in the library until midnight, where he brushes his teeth before heading back to his Subaru sedan to start the cycle again.
How did this happen? David said his father’s real-estate business went bankrupt last year. His mother, a pharmacist, had to leave work for six months following a mastectomy. They fell behind on his housing bills.
“I got evicted during my finals," said David. "That’s when I knew I had to accept it and say, ‘Am I going to move home and get a job or live in my car?’”
David says the struggle is compounded by his big family. He is one of eight children: “Four are still in college. One is a senior in high school and he’ll be going to college. There’s just not enough money to support all of us.”
David says he applied for financial aid, but was rejected. A loan from his girlfriend’s mother helps pay for his tuition.
His sense of humor helps him get through the hardship.
“I feel like I’ve been more productive because I can’t sleep in,” he said. "I had to put the hardship aside and think, ‘I could be joining the army and fighting the war.’ At least I’m in my car studying.”
David thanked his mother for his positive attitude and said, “The thing that really stayed with me is when I picked up my mom from the hospital. The first thing she said was ‘It could be a lot worse, but I’m fine.’”
He hopes to complete his undergraduate degree at UCSD and eventually earn an MBA from Harvard University.