Marine vet fighting for financial aid

Michael Johnson, a Marine Corps veteran, has fought a different kind of battle over the last year.

Michael Johnson, a Marine Corps veteran, has fought a different kind of battle over the last year.

Johnson served six years in the Marine Corps before becoming a mechanic for Atlantic Southeast Airlines. In 2008, he enrolled in Midlands Technical College. Last year, Johnson left his job to become a full-time student so he could take as many classes as possible before his G.I. Bill ran out.

"My last day of work was July 4, 2011. I went to Midlands Tech to ask them to redo my score so I would be eligible for grants. They tried to get me to file a dislocated worker form, which is if you lost a job, had to move, basically it did not fit my reason," said Johnson.

Johnson was denied Pell grants and and recalculation because his 2010 tax returns showed he had an income at the time. The school also denied a professional judgment in his case. They said he needed to lose his job to qualify. The response shocked Johnson.

"I asked the financial director if I had been fired, would you do it? And she said yes we would have no problem doing that. So should I get my job back, slap my boss in the face and get fired?"

He got advice from his parents, who both work in financial aid at colleges in Kentucky and kept records of every letter he has sent or has received. Johnson has tried to talk to the school's financial director numerous times. He even sent letters to state representatives and senators with little luck.

Johnson then contacted the U.S. Department of Education. He got a letter from them saying that returning to school counts for a recalculation.

In an email, Midlands Tech Spokesman Todd Gavin told WACH, "Midlands Technical College is proud to have veterans such as Mr. Michael Johnson as students. Privacy laws prevent the college from discussing details of our students' financial situations. MTC will continue to work with Mr. Johnson to help ensure he receives the maximum benefits for which he is eligible."

Johnson will be transferring to the University of South Carolina this fall for his junior year. He sent them a brief letter about his situation, and is eligible for a Pell grant. Johnson said he still would like to know why Midlands Tech did not give him the help he was looking for.

"Just because I was in the Marines, I do not feel like I deserve anything. I love my country and would defend it again, but a lot of students don't know. They don't have parents that are in financial aid. They are saying, 'We are choosing not to help you, even though you are responsible, but if you have no desire to do well at your job, you are more than welcome here,'" said Johnson.

School officials are trying to help out as much as they can. They plan to meet with Johnson on June 14 to work out any differences.