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Abdullah Huda, Hunter College

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Throughout my college career, I have received financial assistance through the Pell grant and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The assistance was a huge help for me because without it, I would not have been able to go to college. My father is the only person who works full time in my family. He barely makes enough money to pay for all the expenses of providing for a five-member family. I attended college full time while working part time to help take some of the burden off his shoulder, and at the same time pay for my own expenses such as books, metrocards, and food. However, work would sometimes get in the way of my studies. There were many times when I had to choose between studying for an important exam and going to work because I needed the money. While the assistance of Pell grant and TAP has been extremely helpful, I still struggle financially.

I realized, although too late, that there were other programs offered in college to help students with their everyday expenses; programs like ASAP and SEEK.  I wasn’t informed about these programs in high school or in my first semester of college. When I learned about them and went to the financial aid office in my second semester of college, I was told it was too late for me to be eligible for the programs. If I had the assistance that educational opportunity programs provide, I could focus more on my studies and less on working to pay for expenses. This would have made a huge difference in my academic life.

Royland Robinson, Nassau Community College

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I pay for some of my education through financial aid.  Books and transportation, I have to pay for out of pocket, because the amount of money that I get from FASFA is not really enough.  I take the bus most of the time and sometimes ask for rides from family members if I can. The price of books has definitely increased over the past few years. And that’s been kind of hectic. Especially for someone like me who has arthritis. I have been living with arthritis since I was 6 years old and the medication costs $2,000 a month.  

Being able to graduate from high school was a big achievement for me. And now that I was able to do that, I’m not going to let anything stop me. I just want to keep moving forward and be as successful as possible so I can pursue my career goals in the future.

Marie Ceant, Brooklyn College

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As a member of SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge, a CUNY Educational Opportunity program), I have received full financial aid since the beginning of my college career. I live with a widowed mother who has always worked extremely hard to get me to where I am today.  Without the SEEK program I would not have been blessed with this opportunity to be a college student. SEEK has provided me with coverage for my tuition, textbooks, and even an extra semester if needed.

The only reason I’ve been able to get by is because of all the extra support SEEK has provided me with, in not just the things listed above but also academic support e.g. tutoring when needed and even an opportunity to get a head start on my college career with summer classes before my first year. All of these reasons are why I find it extremely unfortunate that SEEK and many other programs like it have  been threatened with budget cuts in the past couple of years. I believe this is extremely unfair because it will create disadvantage to students like me who rely so heavily on SEEK and all that it has to offer. Many successful people, such as engineers, teachers, medical students etc. were blessed with the same opportunity I was given and rose to the occasion, which is why it is extremely important that more funding goes into programs like these.

Chanelle Alvarez, College of Staten Island

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I would like to address the problems that I’ve faced so far as a student and how they would further worsen if tuition was raised. First, I pay out of pocket for part of my tuition. The only financial aid I get is from the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).  My problem is that the state doesn’t take into account that my mom has debt, like most Americans. Whether it’s from child support, paying for higher education for herself, or a credit card there should be a realization that not many Americans are without debt. This effects one’s ability to pay for school.

The government does not account for the debt my family has to pay off when deciding on how much financial aid I receive making it hard for my family to pay.

Alejandro Brown, Hunter College

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I am a first generation college student who started my academic journey at Hostos Community College. I am a bit older and have established a fairly decent job to pay my current bills, but not enough to pay for school.  I filled out my FAFSA and sent it in but New York State did not offer me a Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award, because of my current pay so I have to take out federal loans. I found this to be extremely challenging considering I was struggling to make ends meet with my current expenses. I currently have my associates, which I am very proud of, but continuing my journey to achieve my bachelors has been a struggle. My current student loans exceed the 20 thousand dollar range. I would have loved for tuition cost to be much less or if New York State offered grants to help pay for even just textbooks.

Taking a full load of 15 credits or about 5 classes can be extremely difficult with a full time work schedule. My biggest fear is when I finally get my degree and enter loan repayment, my salary will not match what is needed to pay back the loans. Being a part time student during some semesters means taking much longer to graduate, but the financial burden increases since it is the same cost of a full time student taking 12 credits to 18 credits.

Tobin Nestoiter, Brooklyn College

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I pay for the majority of my tuition through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), and I have to pay out of pocket for the rest of my tuition and other costs which these programs don’t cover. In addition, since TAP takes an excessively long time to process for me, I  sometimes have to pay, on average, about  $1,500, up front.  This is to ensure that my classes do not get dropped in the beginning of the semester. Some semesters my classes do get dropped, without my knowledge, or any warning that there was a standing balance.  This is a huge problem, because due to limited class availability, seats fill up in classes very quickly.

I always expect TAP to not process properly for me, so I work during the summer to try to avoid this. Because I have to work long hours to make money in the summer, I lose the opportunity  to pursue internships related to my career goals.  My only  challenge should be learning new material, not dealing with all the hassles of getting into classes. Not to mention,  high tuition is not the only challenging cost that I am faced with. Books, transportation, and food are also costly and finding money for these expenses is equally difficult. This strain is not only taking a toll on my finances, but also on my health. The panic of finding out that my classes are dropped, that it might be too late to re-register, being forced to take a semester off, and struggling to afford all of these costs, has taken a toll on my mind and body. 

Raylin Leroux, Brooklyn College

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The recent divestment in CUNY and SUNY funding has affected me in many different ways.  I work in order to pay for the entire tuition out of my own pocket.  The job I work provides me with just enough to pay my tuition fees while leaving me with less to save for the future. I sometimes completely opt out of buying the textbook of a class in order to save the hundreds of dollars they can cost.  I instead have to spend time in the library waiting for the textbook to be available and then rent it out to do my studying and homework.  

This, along with working the same days I have class, is very exhausting and negatively affects my state of mind and how much I get out of my classes.  The job I have has nothing to do with what I want my future career to be.  I would love to be in a position where I can become an intern and gain valuable work experience in the field of my major. I hope that one day everyone can have the ability to become an intern in a field of their choosing.

Ashley A., Brooklyn College

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My college is being paid for by financial aid but it will be ending this year.  I still have another year before I graduate and get my bachelors degree. Now I am faced with the fact that I need to find a way to pay for another year of school. Neither my mother nor my father earn enough to pay for my school and no entry level position I have ever had has paid me a wage where I could pay day-to-day expenses and save for school.  

I am twenty-one years old and I am a proud daughter of two immigrants. My mother and father crossed the border twenty-four years ago. Today both my parents are citizens and work as truck drivers. When I was six years old my parents divorced and my mother worked night and day to pay for the food and the roof over our heads. My brother and I are the first generation of college students. 

Maria Bailon, Hunter College

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Understanding my mother’s struggle to get an education, makes it clear that I would not be able to pay for college if I did not qualify for financial aid like the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Although my mother’s experience differs from mine, I know if she had access to opportunity programs or financial aid to help her pay for education, she would have finished. I recently quit one of the two jobs I had at the beginning of the semester because my jobs were taking a toll on my academic performance. It is stressful to manage time when you constantly must decide on whether you need to work to have money to pay for groceries or to use that time to study for an upcoming exam

As first-generation college students, my mother always encouraged my siblings and I to continue with our education to have a financially stable future, nothing like what we experienced as children. My mother valued the little education she received in her hometown in Mexico, and wished to continue her education as a college student but like most of her neighbors, she had no money for it. Although against all odds, my mother followed her passion to learn and enrolled herself in a public college without any financial support from her parents.. She barely passed the first year and failed the following year; whenever I ask her what held her back from going back to school, she explained the lack of resources. Students should not carry such a financial burden before they are even given the chance to better themselves.  

Dejon Virgo, College of Staten Island

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In the beginning of August, me and my mom started talking about the fall semester of college and how to pay for it. We looked at the cost and my mom was worried because it was over $8,000. I told her that the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) would cover the costs associated with college, but not everything.

Then we drove to the college and we spoke with one of the representatives at the financial aid office. She told us “The financial aid would not cover everything”. My mom then asked “How am I supposed to pay it” and the lady said “I don’t know.” When I got home that day, my mom and I had a talk about what to do and we decided to take out loans.  The problem about that is I won’t be able to work on my career because I have to find a job ASAP and work for who knows how long to pay off the loans.  My career will be on hold for weeks, months, or even years.