03/07/2013 09:11 am ET

Poor Scholars Hit By Money Squeeze From Wealthy Colleges

Octavio Brindis thought he had it made when he won a scholarship funded by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates to help him go to college tuition-free.

The second of five children of Mexican immigrants, Brindis has a father who works in a wine company warehouse and makes less than $40,000 a year. His mother is unemployed. Yet, financial-aid officials at Boston College, where it costs about $60,000 to attend, told Brindis he needed to pay about $2,500 a year -- part of a mandated student contribution. Lacking the cash, he took out $5,000 in loans over two years, he said.

The aid officer “would tell me that I was contributing such a small percentage to what my education costs, but she didn’t understand that small percentage was a much bigger percentage to my family,” Brindis, 21, said.