Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

May 18, 2014

Home Stretch program pushes collegians to degrees

FRANKLIN (AP) — Thanks to a fight he never should have gotten involved in, between people he says he shouldn’t have been around, Antranik Askander landed in the hospital with a busted-up face.

Call it his transformative moment: If he had put himself in a better position in life, he told himself, he never would have been near that fight.

He was a college dropout with a good heart — too good a heart, his mother says — hanging around friends who he knew made bad decisions. That’s how he ended up with a fistful of brass knuckles to his face, trying to barter peace with a bunch of bullies.

“It just really bothered me,” he told The Indianapolis Star. “I didn’t want to end up in situations like that again.”

He was a pizza deliveryman whose parents never went to college, but he wanted more for himself.

It’s not that simple, though, to just decide to get a degree. First he needed to afford both the classes and the gas to get there. Then he did all the things that make education officials fret: He dropped classes and took on a lot of debt.

This fall, as he entered his sixth year of college and neared $55,000 in student loans, Askander received an intriguing offer for a $5,000 grant from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The catch: He had to finish his degree this year — or he would have to pay back the money.

In 2005, Askander graduated from Franklin Central High School and enrolled right away at Ivy Tech Community College.

“I tried to pay for that all out of pocket. I didn’t even have loans for that,” he said. “I ended up dropping all my classes.”

Even after he stopped going, he said he still owed $1,800 to Ivy Tech for his failed attempt at college.

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