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New London - Doug Henton, a 2012 graduate of New London High School, has academic acumen that earned him acceptance to Connecticut College in the fall.
Except that Henton won't attend because he can't afford it.
It is a story of extenuating circumstances that demand deeper examination, not to mention calling into question the level to which Connecticut College is truly invested in the city.
Upon graduation from New London, Henton attended Salve Regina until he ran into financial issues after his mother and father divorced. He attended Three Rivers in the meantime and maintained his grades (a 3.5 grade point average), good enough to gain recent acceptance to Conn.
Henton is not receiving financial support from either of his parents, instead living with his sister, Kneocia, in New London. He learned that his financial aid package from Conn would cover $39,000, making the remaining $22,000 Henton's responsibility.
"The package was based on my mother's financial information, which they made me put down on the form," Henton said last week during a phone conversation. "I guess the best way to say it is that we've lost communication. I am not receiving any financial support."
Hence, the information on the financial aid form wasn't applicable.
He lives with his sister at 91 School Street in New London. He believes he's eligible for the Jane Bredeson Scholarship, which covers up to half the cost of tuition for New London residents who are full-time students. Henton said Conn officials asked him for proof he was living in New London. He went to probate court and got what he called an "official stamp" to verify his residence in the city.
Henton has also offered to live at home while he attends Conn. He would not need room, board or the meal plan, which common sense suggests would drastically reduce the cost to educate him. Henton believes the Bredeson Scholarship and the offer to live home would create a financial package he could afford.
Henton said the college asked him to write a letter explaining the circumstances. Later, however, he learned the financial aid package would not change.
Henton called me last week looking for help. I've always liked him. Personable kid. I was referred to university spokesperson Deb MacDonnell, who was unable to comment on the specific case, but facilitated a meeting between Henton and Martha Merrill, the college's Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.
Henton, who again offered to live at home, was told that if he did so, the financial aid package would actually decrease. Henton, as of today, won't be able to attend Conn, despite something MacDonnell sent last week about Conn's financial aid:
"The amount of aid students receive is calculated based on their family's income and financial resources, varying from a few hundred dollars to the full cost of the education."
Henton has no financial resources. He's not looking for a handout. He just wants the opportunity at an elite education.
"Growing up in New London, I knew of Connecticut College, but never really had visions of going there," Henton said. "I was going to play Division I basketball. Then reality set in. I realize I'm nowhere near good enough. I want to focus on academics. I was so excited when I got accepted. Conn is a great school."
I don't believe Connecticut College has treated Henton unfairly. Henton has been treated like every other prospective student. Except that he's not. He's an African American kid from the city whose transcript says he deserves to be there, but whose circumstances won't allow it.
Is there room for any compassion here?
How ironic that some Connecticut College athletes participate in a "Camels 4 Whalers" program, offering academic support to New London students. There's an entire web page devoted to Conn students as "active participants in the community." And yet here is a young man from the community who wants to become an active participant on campus. And all in all, as Pink Floyd might say, he's being treated like another brick in the wall.
Somebody out there: help. Step in. Trust me when I say that I get calls like this all the time. And I respectfully decline. But I believe in Doug Henton. I believe it when he says his education matters to him more than anything else, even basketball. And he'll probably make the men's basketball team, offering another connection between the college and the city.
Doug Henton isn't like other prospective students.
The evidence says so.
And he belongs at Conn.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.