KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — An international student at Western Michigan University who is three semesters from finishing her degree may be forced to leave the country as early as next week.
It’s all because she can’t afford to pay her tuition.
Whitney Igwe owes WMU $33,000 in tuition from last year. Unless she repays that money, she can’t enroll for classes and will be forced to return to Nigeria.
Igwe came to Western Michigan University from Nigeria in the fall of 2014 to earn a degree in Aviation Science. With just three semesters to go until she graduates, she has a 3.65 GPA.
“I believe in the American dream, as cheesy as it sounds. I know that it is real, and I know that if I get this education, it will definitely help me to move forward and progress in life,” Igwe said.
But things changed last year after both of her parents lost their jobs in Nigeria. They could no longer pay her tuition.
“They tried everything that they could do to allow me to come this far,” said Igwe. “They tried to sell things that they did have. My parents sold their cars.”
Igwe owes WMU $33,000 for last year’s tuition. She has until Tuesday to pay her bill. If she doesn’t, she can’t enroll in classes or work at the university, forcing her to return to Nigeria. Because she’s neither a U.S. citizen nor a permanent resident, she can’t get scholarships. Nobody will co-sign for her to get a loan to pay the remaining balance.
“My education is my life,” she said. “It’s all I have to show for my journey here.”
As a last resort, a job supervisor at WMU set up a GoFundMe page for Igwe.
“It was a matter of choosing between preserving my pride and how I thought people would see me or just fighting for my education,” Igwe said.
The page raised $17,000 in 10 days, but Igwe is still only halfway to her $33,000 goal.
“It’s three years of work, and I’ve come this far,” Igwe said. “And I know that I’m so close. So, it would definitely break my heart if I have to leave and go back.”