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Rachael Adeloye, College of Staten Island

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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

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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

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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

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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.

David Paiz-Torres, Nassau Community College

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To pay for my education, I get a Pell Grant and a TAP Grant from New York. Usually, I would pay for books with my book voucher, but this year I couldn’t because tuition went up. The way the voucher works is that I would need to have at least $100 more in financial aid than tuition costs, which due to tuition hikes at Nassau Community College did not happen this semester. Instead, I had to use a credit card and some money that I had left over from my summer job to pay for my schoolbooks this semester. I plan on graduating Nassau Community College, and moving on to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Since I want to be a teacher, I will need to follow that with my Master’s in teaching which only adds to the costs I will have to pay. The cost of attending a 4 year school are very concerning for me, because I know I will have to take out student loans. I’m worried that by the time I would be eligible for loan forgiveness programs; these programs would have been dismantled. Any cuts to these programs would be putting my future at risk. Here in New York, we need to increase funding for SUNY and CUNY schools so professors and academic programs can be properly paid for and so electricity and other utility bills aren’t put on the backs of students. Our state leaders can definitely do a better job in terms of funding our schools.

Bria Degraffenreid, Buffalo State College

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Attending ​​Buffalo ​​State​​ College ​​was​​ one​​ of​​ the ​​best​​ things ​​that ​​has ​​happened ​​to​​ me ​​but I have surely ​​faced ​​some​​ obstacles. ​​I’m currently ​​a ​​senior ​​and ​​it ​​has ​​been​​ a​​ long ​​journey ​​but  ​​I’m finally ​​almost​​ at the ​​finish ​​line.​​ I’m ​​a ​​Media ​​Production​​ major ​​and ​​I’m ​​hoping ​​after​​ college ​​to ​​find some sort of internship ​​or ​​job in my field. But ​​I’m ​​worried,​​ how​​ will ​​I​​ pay ​​back ​​these ​​loans ​​if​​ a ​​job ​​isn’t guaranteed? ​​I currently receive ​​financial ​​aid ​​but ​​the other ​​expenses ​​outside ​​of​​ school​​ are ​​a huge ​​factor. ​​Often ​​I find​​ myself​​ wondering ​​how ​​I ​​can afford to ​​travel ​​home​​ during ​​the ​​holidays to see my family.​​ Thankfully with ​​the assistance ​​of​​ a ​​community ​​program​​ Harlem ​​Children ​​Zone,​​ I’m usually ​​able​​ to​​ make ​​it​​ home during ​​the​​ holidays.​​ Also, ​​covering ​​the ​​expenses​​ of ​​supplies ​​for ​​my ​​photography classes ​​has ​​intensified​​ and become another burden that I have to bear on top of everything else. Throughout my college career I have been worried and concerned about paying for food and my bills more often than not. Paying monthly bills, affording classes, and making sure I survive every week ​​have all​​ really ​​opened​​ my​​ eyes ​​to ​​the​​ reality ​​of ​​needing more funding across the board for higher education as well as an increase in assistance programs specifically for college students.

Aaliyah Elliott, Buffalo State College

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My higher education is partly covered by financial aid through TAP, and then my dad pays the rest out of pocket. TAP has paid for a substantial amount of my tuition but there’s still so much more than can be done to help. My family must pay well over three thousand dollars out of pocket while still paying for my younger sister’s schooling plus all of my basic necessities. There is a huge burden of paying thousands of dollars for both me and my sister and living expenses that we are not able to pay for yet while still having to take care of themselves and being responsible for prior commitments like rent, food, and other needs that are vital to an education. I’ve also had to take out several loans each semester that I will be responsible for paying off once I graduate, which is not exactly what I’m looking forward to. Students should not have to start their life out of college in debt automatically. The state should do more to make it easier for students to obtain an education and not be in debt once they graduate.

Jairon Munoz, Brooklyn College

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When I graduated from Brooklyn College with a Business Management and Finance Degree I thought this was it. Financial Aid, TAP and the seek program had covered my tuition and expenses, I would find a job and start my life. However, I am back in school studying Accounting in order to get more job security because I could not secure a job within the first major I studied. Currently, I do not work so I pay for college and other expenses with the money I saved since I graduated Brooklyn College. Luckily, I worked hard and can fall on that cushion I provided for myself. Then again, I have to make a lot of decisions on how to allocate my money, such as I ride the bike to school rather than take the bus because transit money can be used to buy food, rent or supplies for school.
Eventually, my savings will run out and I will have to work again in order to go to college. I would qualify for financial aid, tap and other services but because of the four-year limit, my time is up. I am already looking in to scholarships and awards because I do not want to take a loan and be one of the many students in debt. Hopefully, after obtaining my 2nd Bachelors I can start studying for the CPA exam, get my license and work in an accounting firm. Although, with that comes more money in order to take the courses to study for those exams. All I worry about are my finance when I should be focusing more on a Midterm I have next week for Managerial Accounting.

Sarah Pulinski, SUNY New Paltz

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I received the Excelsior Scholarship.  The problem with Excelsior is that it’s more difficult to qualify for than initially advertised and there’s a lot of hoops you need to jump through in order to get it. I have been on the phone with Excelsior this semester a total of 4 times and the financial aid office here has even gotten involved and I still have not received the money. It’s very frustrating and it’s like they want you to struggle to get it even if you do qualify. Tuition increases would mean more people wanting to receive this money and probably put more pressure on HESC which already seems to be struggling to help students get the money promised.

 

Fabienne Lescouflair, SUNY New Paltz

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I’m a student in the Human Service field, I feel forced to take out loans because my mother is the only other person helping me pay for my education and she is a single mother. While I was at my 2 year school both of my parents ended up paying for half of my tuition while I worked my brains out and paid for the other half myself.  My mom can’t help me out anymore because of the tuition hikes, which forced me to take out loans in the middle of the semester to cover the tuition.  It’s not ideal but it’s better than dropping out.