Devon Coombs rose up from the depth of college debt and has built a stable life for himself without owing a single dime.
Coombs began attending Pierce College at an early age with the encouragement of his mother. At age 15 Coombs’ mother died in her sleep, and he became homeless by the time he was 18-years-old.
“When we were kids it wasn’t obvious; it never really is in those situations. The home life doesn’t seem like the pressing concern that it really is,” Coombs’ longtime friend and former News Editor of the Roundup, Scott Prewitt said.
Coombs lived in and out of his car for roughly a year, periodically sleeping on a friend’s couch when he had the opportunity, and finding creative ways to maintain appearances.
“I had a nice gym membership, and I would shower in the gym, and sleep in gym chairs,” Coombs said.
He spent a majority of his days sleep deprived while working two or more jobs at a time.
“A lot of jobs don’t care if you’re going to college or not. So, I was working a lot of service jobs like bartending and bar-backing, and serving and bussing, and washing tables and dishes,” Coombs said. “When you’re doing that, if you don’t show up for work one day or if they call you in and you can’t, someone else is going to get your job.”
Coombs met a woman named Cynthia (whose last name he withheld). She said she had a religious experience speaking to Coombs and offered him a place to stay – he rejected it.
After maintaining a relationship with Cynthia for about a year, Coombs went through a rough break-up with his then girlfriend, and finally decided to take Cynthia up on the offer and paid her a low priced rent.
“I was able to finish college, graduate from CSUN (Cal. State University, Northridge) [as] one of their top four students in the whole university, in less than four years as soon as I had the stability,” Coombs said.
Prewitt was concerned about Coombs’ homeless situation, and was unsure whether he would be able to escape it.
“I think at one point along the line he really just decided. He made a very real decision that he would get out of it,” Prewitt said.
Coombs applied and earned many scholarships during his time at CSUN.
“I think I was the most decorated scholar at CSUN, ever. I won so much that they couldn’t pay me anymore, legally they couldn’t pay me. Which is pretty cool, but I wish I knew it earlier because I wouldn’t have had to be homeless. I probably could have graduated three or four years earlier,” Coombs said.
Denise Robb, Associate Professor of Political Science has known Coombs for some time, and has insight when it comes to students in difficult situations.
“There is sort of a stigma…but I think there is a lot more students that just don’t tell people because they think there might be some [stigma], but they may feel ashamed, or embarrassed about it,” Robb said.
After his graduation from CSUN, Coombs started giving seminars at local colleges and making YouTube videos to answer commonly asked questions about earning scholarships.
Coombs soon figured it would be best to accumulate his answers and publish them to help as many financially struggling students as he could.
In June 2016 Coombs released his book “Scholarships: Quick and Easy.”
“The reason I originally wrote it was because, if I knew everything I know now about scholarships, I probably wouldn’t have had to go through anything I went through,” Coombs said. “I didn’t realize there was so much accesses to financial aid and it’s not a very common topic in our culture. It’s not just for people who are poor, or homeless, there are scholarships for everyone.”
“There is a cycle of debt that is extremely unacceptable and there’s really no help out of it. Financial education is paramount,” Coombs said.