Ankush Gaba, Queensborough Community College

I am studying Business Administration at Queensborough Community College, and I want to pursue accounting in the future. This is my second year, and I am graduating in Fall 2020. I’m currently in ASAP and they help cover some expenses and books, but I don’t receive any financial aid and pay out of pocket for tuition during the summer or winter sessions. Because of COVID-19 I haven’t been able to work for a month, but I still have to pay off my bills and help support my family. 

I am an immigrant. The only way I can pay for this college is by working and working too much. I have to deal with my travel expenses, meals, and then my tuition or textbook expenses. I work three jobs to get myself going and also help my family financially too as we are here to make our future. A fully funded CUNY would take a big load of stress off of me and my family, and would especially help immigrant families who are trying to save as much as they can to have a secure and better future. 

Being QCC’s Student Government President I think if people didn’t have to worry about paying for college, they could have more time to study or get involved with campus life and opportunities, rather than running to work right after class.

Mohima Bahar, Brooklyn College

I am a dual major in Children and Youth Studies and Political Science. I hope to be an advocate and fight for matters that are important to me. I have decided to pursue Children and Youth Studies because there are many children in Bangladesh, my native country that continue to suffer with little to no voice. I am fortunate enough to come to the United States and pursue education. But many children around the world are not as lucky. I hope to make a change in how children are viewed and treated in society. Thus, I decided to major in Political Science also, because in order to make a change I need to have the power to influence or be part of policymaking such as through activism. 

I receive Pell, TAP, and I also work to put myself through school. The financial aid awards covered my higher education costs like tuition, textbooks. But it definitely does not cover my food, rent, and other living expenses. I work to cover my living expenses such as food and transportation. I have one job and I work 20 hours a week. It is hard to pay for commuting while paying tuition so I have to work. I would like to see the state support students with the other costs associated with college that people often forget about. 

Henry Fernberger, Hunter College

I’m a senior at Hunter College studying Ancient Greek and Latin. I was part of a Greek / Latin scholarship program, a little known one but also out of pocket. I do film editing on the side and edited some short videos. I didn’t receive the Pell Grant or TAP. The scholarship helped a lot. I don’t receive any additional help. 

I was lucky enough to have been able to live with my parents during college. I don’t have to pay rent so it allows me to devote my income towards school so I’m lucky in that way. I do not receive SNAP. I try to eat at home which also allows me to save money. 

I’m pretty independent so I’m not in the worst situation, and you know it’s tough because you really have to be careful. Hunter is pretty difficult and you have to make sure you get your classes done because before you know it, you can tack on more classes for your degree. It’s pretty common for a lot of students to make those mistakes because of no contact with an advisor. 1 advisor for every 1000 students and the ratio might be more than that. I never saw my advisor. 

My parents had gone to college, so it was a little bit easier for me to navigate but for some people who are the first students to navigate alone might not be easy. There’s more steps they have to take. I could be a bunch of steps back in my degree trying to catch up. 

We need to decide whether or not we want to live in a society where we value educated people we can show that by giving access to education for everybody. By every metric, an educated population means growth and prosperity for the society. For every dollar invested into education, it creates $8 more, and it creates a skilled and valuable population. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be funding college. Look at our primary and secondary school, they pay for school up until high school. We have these great support systems for students who are underserved but then suddenly all those support systems fall by the wayside until they have a degree or a job that can MAYBE pull them out of poverty. It’s unconscionable that we can live in a society where people aren’t given tools that can provide a nice life for their family.”

Sierra, Pratt Institute

I’ve had financial trouble as a result of going to Pratt, because Pratt doesn’t accept a lot of transfer credits. I came from an international institution, and it took months for Pratt to get back to me about my credits. I was also coming from a schooling situation that cost very little money compared to what I’m paying for here. The school responded to me about my credits after I was accepted, and they didn’t accept most of them. This essentially means that my schooling last year didn’t count, and it makes me ineligible for a lot of programs I’m interested in. I felt like I was learning a lot of the same things that I had spent my first year in college learning, but paying so much more. Pratt could be better about supporting students through transitioning into their institution- It takes a while for the advising team to respond, and often I haven’t felt heard.

Hifza Hameed, Brooklyn College

I am a freshman at Brooklyn College. I’m currently undecided. But I hope to major in something that will guarantee a job as soon as possible, so I’ll probably major in something STEM-related. I always knew I had to study and get a higher education so I could be financially independent, move out, and live my life on my own terms. 

I currently receive a Pell Grant and TAP. I am the first woman in my family to go to college. I hate the anxiety of filling out my FAFSA when I don’t know how much money I’ll receive. I don’t know why I received less money this year too. The financial aid I receive covers my tuition, textbooks and lab fees. But it does not cover rent, food, and living expenses. I don’t have a job right now but I am looking for one so that I can cover the added expenses of college that people don’t normally consider. I’d never be able to pay rent and pay tuition at the same time. That’s why I still live with my family. TAP should be expanded so that students can better focus on their studies and worry less about the added expenses of education. 

Rohan, Pratt Institute

I’m from New Delhi, India, and I’m wrapping up my first year as a freshman at Pratt. My dream has always been to go to film school, and there were no art schools that had good film programs in my home country of India. I applied to 10 schools in the United States. I was thrilled to be accepted to Pratt because of its film program, but it also meant that to go would result in an economic burden on myself and my family. The exchange rate between India and the United States multiplies the financial loss. I am grateful to be going here, but there are times I wish Pratt could be more accommodating to international students in terms of financial aid. The cost of education is unheard of.

Victoria Azor, Brooklyn College

I am a senior at Brooklyn College. I am a Political Science major. I plan on going to Law school after obtaining my bachelor’s degree to be a criminal defense attorney. When there, I want to create my own version of the innocence project. Khalif Browder’s story definitely helped me in deciding what I really wanted to do. The fact that someone who was innocent could spend 2 years in prison for allegedly stealing a backpack was beyond me. The psychological and physical abuse that he endured within the two years was inhumane. I think that he is a prime example of how the criminal justice system fails us all the time.

I currently receive both TAP and Pell to pursue my studies. I’m having trouble graduating on time because I cannot afford summer classes. I wish that TAP would cover summer sessions so that I wouldn’t fall behind.

Emma Buth, Syracuse University

As a first year college student, I was not prepared for how challenging life outside of the classroom could be. Many of my friends have struggled with food insecurity due to not being able to pay for their meals, because their schedules are so packed that they can’t balance having a job plus being a full-time student. We’re forced to eat on-campus, which is very expensive and a lot of the time isn’t accessible enough to students with different needs. This then adds additional stress to us, which makes being a successful student almost impossible.

I’ve also seen how little mental health resources are made available to students. I’ve struggled with mental health issues over the past year, and being able to get help has been a major struggle. I have had to wait hours for an appointment at times due to a lack of available staff and resources. I know many other schools don’t have nearly as many resources for students on-campus that we do. We cannot reach our potential as students or even live normal lives if we don’t have a support system to provide us with the assistance we need.

Julia Howland, SUNY New Paltz

I am a senior at SUNY New Paltz, majoring in English and Journalism. I decided to go to a state school because it would be cheaper than any other on-campus experience I could have. Despite this, I’m still going to be in debt for quite a long time after I graduate. It’s scary to think about, especially now with having to enter the work world after a catastrophic event like the COVID-19 pandemic. Job opportunities will be scarce and my debt will only grow the longer it doesn’t get paid off. 

It is vital that we close the TAP gap, expand the excelsior scholarship, and increase state funding for SUNY/CUNY. The financial burden of tuition costs does not belong on the backs of students. Affordable higher education is essential to the future success and economic wealth of New York State. 

McAland Gilles, City College of NY

I’m a senior philosophy major at City College. After graduation, I want to work for the city, prepare for the LSAT, and pursue a career in intellectual property law.  

My current occupation as a banker and real estate agent provides me an opportunity to pay out of pocket for some of my school expenses. As far as tuitions goes I have been able to take advantage of FASFA and TAP grants.

Despite the aid that I receive, which is a tremendous blessing from the state of New York and federal government, I still have grave concerns about completing my degree. Due to rising costs of tuition, funds that I would have in the past pocketed for extra classes for winter and summer sessions have now gone to paying regular fall and spring sessions. This leaves me with less funds for crucial school expenses like textbooks and transportation. In addition to my school expenses being depleted, I must find additional funding to compensate for the loss of credits that my institution could not honor because they do not offer a similar course. We need a fully-funded CUNY so that students can have less stress from financial hardship, and a chance in the competitive job market.