Search NYPIRG

Hussein Abdul, Bronx Community College

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

At my local campus of BCC, we have recently experienced budget cuts across departments. This is no fault of BCC, nor is it unique to BCC. Across CUNY, institutions are experiencing cuts. This is a result of the lack of funding from our state government. When the state refuses to support our public institutions, who suffers the most, who is impacted? We, the students. It forces our colleges to recompense for their losses by increasing tuition. At an institution like BCC, and CUNY as a whole, where many of our students require financial assistance such as TAP, when tuition goes up and TAP stays the same, school’s budgets are hurt.

A great example of how students are affected by the lack of support from our state government is what has recently happened at BCC. Amongst the budget cuts, our library hours have been cut. Once again, this is not unique to BCC. Across CUNY, colleges are experiencing short library hours. It’s funny because when I was younger my mother would force my brother and I to go to the library. She would scream, and shout, and force us to go study when all we wanted to do was chill and relax. Yet, here we are today, screaming and shouting for access to the library–to be able to use the library past 5 o’clock on a Friday.

At the core of every academic institution, the library plays a significant role in student success. This wouldn’t fly at an institution such as Harvard or Columbia. How can we encourage a quality education, or 15 credits a semester/30 a year when students don’t have access to the library? This all stems from the lack of support from our state government. We’re not asking for the world, were just asking for access to the world.

Luisa Garcia, Nassau Community College

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

 I am currently in my second semester at Nassau Community College, and every day I have to take 3 different busses just to get to campus, taking me almost 2 hours. Recently, the bus that comes near my house was cut so now it only runs every 5 hours, so my time to be at school and do what I need to do as a student is limited.

Right now, I am working towards becoming a physical therapist but have had issues trying to find what classes I need. I went to the advising office on campus, but was only told what classes I would need to get my general degree and not what would help me best prepare for once I transferred. The office attempted to help, but because they had to help so many other students I wasn’t able to get the advising that I need to make sure that I will be prepared for life after college.  Also, due to budget issues the school does not have all of the classes I will need to continue my education, so I will be behind when I transfer schools.

Right now, I am able to afford to go to school due to financial aid programs. I am very lucky to receive these, but what I will receive will not nearly cover the costs of the four year college that I will need to attend to receive my degree. I’m not sure how I’m going to afford it, right now I already have an on-campus job while I’m in classes full time an am stretched so thin.

Sarah Zielstorf, SUNY Cortland

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

As a college student I knew I would have my fair share of financial issues. Applying for scholarships, grants and taking out loans can be a painful process, especially when you’re deemed not poor enough to get actual help and not rich enough to cover the expenses. I’m a sophomore at SUNY Cortland and am currently in the BFA studying studio art but I plan on changing my major to gear more towards illustration/animation. My career goals involve working for major companies creating storyboard art for tv shows/movies or video games. As an artist I understand that right from the get go I won’t have an immediate high paying job, it’s something I will have to work hard for and I look forward to that part of my life. Furthermore as an artist I know money will be tight but I haven’t even stepped foot into that career field yet and I’m already facing many financial struggles that I was under the impression would be taken care of. As of right now I have received the federal Pell grant, TAP, federal Perkins loan and other loans and I also work to get myself through school. And sadly that still isn’t enough. Due to a low credit score I am unqualified to get more loans that would pile on to my amount of debt. I couldn’t afford to pay my tuition up front so now I make monthly payments, any money I earn I can barely touch because it goes towards a $500.00 monthly payment plan that my mom struggles to help me with.

Any time I need to spend money or finally agree to eat out I always check in with my mom to see if I can afford it. I report back to her any payments I made so we can keep track of our funds. The Excelsior scholarship promised to aid those making $100,000 a year or less. I fall under that category as do many others. The Excelsior Scholarship also claimed it would cover tuition payments and as years progressed the threshold would increase so no one had to pay for college and be in debt. Sounds great right? And it is, in theory. I understand that when any new program rolls out there are bumps in the road but my experience with the scholarship was anything but helpful. If the items on your college bill don’t have the word “tuition” in it you pay for it yourself. Though it’s true that any amount of money is helpful, the specific qualifications for the scholarship helped as little people as possible. One of my friends who received it only got $1,000. After receiving financial aid, federal aid etc and receiving the Excelsior Scholarship I thought I was finally free of counting pennies to see if I could buy a half gallon of milk, I was wrong. The Excelsior Scholarship only allows up to $5,000 per student. Although I qualified, the extra aid I received covered many expenses so the Excelsior Scholarship was taken away from me. The federal aid I received due to my poverty disqualified me from getting more help. I had to pick my poison; get more money from aid, loans and grants, or get anywhere from a few hundred to $5,000 for solely tuition. This scholarship doesn’t include dorms, meal plans, studio fees, lab fees, athletic fees, transportation fees etc. I chose the aid I received because it came out to more than the scholarship. But why do I have to choose?

Those whose incomes are higher don’t qualify for the federal aid that I received so they would receive the Excelsior Scholarship, but I’m not rich enough to solely rely on that. Those who are poorer than me recieve even more aid and may not need Excelsior. Is it better to be so poor that you require full government aid to get you through school?

College is a time for fun, experimenting, learning and so much more. I shouldn’t be crippled by my financial situation. The financial aid office also required my parents 2015 tax records, my financial situation has changed drastically in two years! Looking at recent records most likely would have helped me get more aid but that is not the way the system works. I want to study abroad so I have a savings account but on more than one occasion we’ve had to dip in to help with payments. So I work more to save more money which gets exhausting and cuts into my social life, but I wouldn’t even be able to go to college without this job so I have to keep working.

After going back and forth with the financial aid office (who were not given information about the Excelsior Scholarship) and the Excelsior Scholarship office for two weeks I thought I wouldn’t be able to attend college again and I would have to stay home to work. Luckily I was able to take out a loan and work some more with the financial aid office and dip into my savings account. Life isn’t easy, people have to make sacrifices and work hard, but college is about getting integrated into adult life slowly, not getting thrown in and suffering all the way through.

Fadly Cherif, Buffalo State

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

I am a junior with a double major in Political Science and Psychology, as well as a minor in International Relations. I came to the United States in 2015 seeking a better education. As an international student, I don’t get financial aid, I don’t get loans, and there are restrictions on how long and where I can work.   New York State’s disinvestment in state colleges has affected me in multiple ways. The lack of funding has resulted in overworked professors who don’t have time to assist students as much as they need to, crowded classrooms and health center, and expensive textbooks.

I’ve been working part time at the writing help center on campus to support myself while getting help from my parents to put myself through college.  However, the college expenses are sometimes too much. For the past two years I’ve gone through my classes without ever getting the required textbooks. I would either rent them from third parties or borrow a friend’s. The state needs to fund colleges so as to minimize costs for students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Malcom Michael, Buffalo State

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

Since I was adopted from Russia by my single mother who possess a PHD in English literature, the importance of my education has been emphasized from early on in my life.   As my high school years elapsed and the daunting reality of the real world loomed over my conscience, I found myself applying to community college. To my surprise there were a lot more hurdles I had to overcome then just an entrance exam. Despite New York State offering a wide variety of financial aid support to students, I was unable to qualify for any financial aid.  Thus, my mother and I took loans to supplement the cost of community college. By the end of my two year program the debt I had accumulated was over $9000. With my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice I transferred to Buffalo State College where I am now a senior studying Political Science. As my first year at Buffalo State waned into the past I had accumulated a loan which surpassed $20,000. During the summer prior to my senior year I moved from Buffalo State campus into an apartment close to campus. The summer of 2017 was the beginning to a life full of relentless stress and physical pain. As bills began to pile up I found myself working full time at a local pizzeria.  Luckily for the first time I was actually able to receive financial help from the New York State government through the new Excelsior Scholarship. Which was even harder to receive than loans. Along with the hoops one has to jump through, the programs has many restrictions which have the potential of crippling students. An example of one of these restricting parameters is the required number of credits a student must take during a semester in order to receive the financial support. Over my senior year here at Buffalo State College I have been working 40+ hours a week while being a full time student. The financial burden of living expenses such as rent, utilities, food etc., has made it increasingly difficult to focus and dedicate spare time to school. The fear of eviction and the potential of being homeless is a daunting reality for students who fully support themselves. I often find myself worrying about my finances, rather than worrying about important school assignments.

Monique Ritchie, Queensborough Community College

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

South African leader Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon in which you can use to change the world”. Since I started my education at Queensborough Community College in Fall 2016, I’ve realized my growth and the importance of having a college degree. In the future, I would like to become an attorney, to advocate justice for those less fortunate.

Currently, I’m enrolled in the ASAP program and I am a TAP and Pell recipient. I could not imagine coming to school without financial aid and opportunity programs that help support and pay for my schooling. Without these I would probably be more focused on working long hours to pay off tuition, than on classes and experiences that would be beneficial to my career later on. I want tuition hikes to be ended and higher education in New York to be fully funded so everyone will have the chance to get a fair education and further themselves like I am.

Rachael Adeloye, College of Staten Island

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

I am a sophomore and currently a Liberal Arts major but I plan to become a police officer after I graduate.  I’ve worked with the police for the last two years during the summer and it’s been a real eye opener for me because I barely see any black female police officers there, and that’s something I’d like to change.

Unfortunately, my plans suffered a setback this year.  My GPA is too low to receive financial aid this semester, including the Excelsior Scholarship, but past semesters I did receive aid.   Without the aid my family and I have been struggling to find a way to pay for school out of pocket.  We now are living paycheck to paycheck, and even though there are a lot of things we would like to do, due to lack of funds we can no longer do them.

As a person who was not born in this country, I feel like the system is not set up in a way that enables me to succeed.  For example, I’m doing poorly in my English 151 class and my professor tells me I don’t know how to write to an American standard, but then he doesn’t have the time to teach me how to correct it.  A fully funded CUNY would mean that professors would be able to spend more time with each student, more student services would be available to help students like me improve skills like writing, and I could commit to being a full-time student without burdening myself or my family.

Domonique Baker, SUNY New Paltz

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

I first got a Medical Assisting certificate at Ridely Lowell which is a trade school which I am currently in $18,000 in debt for. l then got my Associates at Dutchess Community College in psychology.  I am now going for my Bachelors in Psychology. I didn’t qualify for any financial aid because I am independent, even though I only make $25,000 a year. I work full time to cover outside expenses like food, rent, utilities, a car.  I got a better job at a hospital recently which pays a little bit more. I take out loans for New Paltz. If I get a C or above in school my full time job gives me a grant of $2500 toward tuition. I work full time over night so I only sleep 3 hours a night. Its impossible to study.
If college was free I wouldn’t have to work so hard maybe just part time, it would greatly improve my college experience, I’d get to spend more time studying, and be able to meet deadlines. Now I record my notes to play while I’m driving. I have to take a course over because I got a D, it was a course that started at 11am but I got out of work at 9:30am and sleep deprivation made it hard to stay awake through the class. I now have to retake the class but its full. I often have trouble registering for a class because it interferes with work, especially since I live 30 minutes from campus. If the class is too close to 5pm or right after then I can’t take it. I wanted to get a concentration in organizational psychology but a lot of the required courses were at 8 am and since my job wants me to be at work that early it’s not realistic. I need the job though, so what can I do?

This limits the options I have for my future prospects of becoming a Physician’s Assistant. I am being constrained by these financial factors. I graduated in high school in 2008, I never thought I would even achieve a Bachelor’s degree. Some semesters I can only afford to go to school part time. I’ve had to keep stopping. I’m surprised I’m graduating. Even to pay for this semester I had to put it on a credit card because the tuition assistance from my job doesn’t kick in until later. I applied for the Excelsior Scholarship, one day I was on hold for 20 minutes, then 40 minutes. They said I didn’t have enough credits, I was in school for too many semesters, they said over the phone that as long as I don’t have a bachelors and meet the income eligibility I’d get it, but in the 11th hour of the last day they denied it because of credits. When I call them and talk to them no one knows anything. I spoke to a woman at the hospital who said the same thing. Financial aid said to just call the website. The website would say call TAP then you’re on hold for 40 minutes. I don’t blame the financial aid people, the people at the Excelsior office needed to be more informed.

Clark Adomaitis, CUNY City College

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

I am a sophomore. My major is Economics with a concentration in Business Administration and Management. I

hope to one day become an activist focused on environmental inefficiency and to also teach a college poet

ry class on rap. Currently, my parents pay for my tuition, as well as the costs to dorm on campus. I do not qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship, TAP, or Pell Grants, so the full burden of my college education falls on my parents and students loans. I

believe in a fully funded CUNY system so that every student can attain the high quality education they deserve. With a fully funded CUNY, students like myself will no longer have to struggle financially and can fully focus on our future.

Winnie Lei, City College

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

I am a freshman at CUNY City College. My major is currently undeclared but I am exploring my options by taking a diverse range of classes. I do not have a job but would like to get one in the future to support my daily needs. Due to my parents’ income, I do not qualify for financial assistance and do not receive any TAP or Pell Grants. Although CUNY’s tuition is lower than other schools, my parents have to pay all the school costs for both my brother and I, which places a significant burden on their shoulders. I do not qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship because my household income is slightly above the limit. I am able to pay for textbooks and weekly meals but the costs continuously add up. I am only a freshman so I have three more years of tuition, textbooks, and other costs left to pay in order to continue my higher education. As a result, my biggest challenge is not my classes, but being able to pay for the classes I need in order to graduate.