'Overcoming Autism' at ASU: Student sets up GoFundMe account for higher education

The path to graduation is paved with lofty tuition prices and difficult classes that may scare most degree-chasers away; but for a select few, it's a long-awaited goal. 

One of those few is James Deibler, a 31-year-old public policy student who has autism and is working toward his big day of crossing the stage with a diploma in hand.

"I have been going to college for nine years," Deibler said. "I went to community college for eight years, and received an associate's degree in general studies and a certificate in photography."

And as of now, that day is looming closer. After years of classes, Deibler is set to graduate in May 2020.

Higher education hasn't been without its own difficulties. While attending Glendale Community College, Deibler's school was paid for by financial aid. However, since coming ASU in the fall, the financial hardships have begun and his financial aid is coming to an end.

ASU can't legally disclose information regarding an individuals financial status, but the issue with Deibler's finances are a result of national financial aid regulations, not ASU's scholarship or financial aid options. 

"Federal laws governing student privacy and state regulations prevent the university from discussing the details of an individual student situation," according to a statement from the University.

Deibler attends ASU through the Federal Pell Grant, which provides scholarship funds for low-income students. As of 2012, students can only receive a Federal Pell Grant for 12 semesters, or roughly a six year equivalent. Deibler is nearing the end of his Pell Grant eligibility.  

He has decided to start using other options to raise money for his education which will end up costing him $25,000-$30,000.

"I set up the GoFundMe page about two weeks ago," Deibler said. "I need around $10,000 to continue my education this fall semester."

The fundraising page has raised Deibler $460 in one month. 

The $460 came from an array of anonymous donors and Sun Devils all around — one of which was Rubi Vasquez, a biochemistry sophomore.

"When I first donated, it was me and someone else and now I look and it's up to $450," Vasquez said. I don’t know James personally, but one of my Facebook friends shared his GoFundMe page, I read his page and I thought it was really interesting. “

According to Deibler's GoFundMe page, he plans on graduating with a bachelor's degree, working in local government in the disability sector and addressing some of the issues he's faced as a student.

"I want to make people with disabilities' lives better," Deibler said.

John Pendrick is a caregiver with the Division of Developmentally Disabled, an organization that allows citizens to foster individuals who may need extra support in their daily lives. He said he has seen Deibler's perseverance day after day.

Deibler has been living with Pendrick for around 3 1/2 years. 

During this time, Pendrick said he could not believe the strides that Deibler has made toward his educational goal. 

"It's amazing," Pendrick said. "He has this drive of wanting to overcome and achieve anything."

Related links:

ASU students learn about autism during Well Devils Week

Club helps students' social struggles with autism


Reach the reporter at dcaltabi@asu.edu or follow @davidcaltabiano on Twitter.

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