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Jacky Zhao, College of Staten Island

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I rely on Access-A-Ride service to get around every day since I can’t use public transit, but the service is terrible. It usually takes a tremendous amount of time to get home, and since the time slots to book a trip are inflexible and determined by a computer, I can’t always leave when I need to. The time slots available don’t give me enough time to get prepared at the beginning of the day, or return me home to get enough sleep at night. Even when I do get a trip booked at a convenient time, Access-A-Ride doesn’t seem to account for traffic in planning the trip, so I can end up waiting for a long time outside for a van to arrive, and I often don’t make it home from school until 2AM.

Someone from NYC Transit told me that I should try Access-A-Ride’s subscription service, where you can schedule rides in advance for the same time every day, to make things better. But I can’t do that since I’m a student and I don’t have the same schedule every day. Subscription service is good to have, but many people, like students, have irregular schedules.

Better Access-A-Ride service would benefit me and my friends a lot.  We’re students, we’re humans, we have personal lives, and we have to fight for our rights. We deserve an Access-A-Ride that understands that.

Chelsea Grate, SUNY Cortland

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This is my second year of college, but my first year at SUNY Cortland. I transferred here from Hudson Valley Community College. I’m a Political Science major with a minor in Communications, and I’m somewhere between a sophomore and a junior because of the credits I transferred in with from HVCC and high school.

I am concerned about graduating on time. If I had six more credits I’d be considered a junior right now. I didn’t want to do classes over the summer because I didn’t want to have to pay for that out of pocket on top of everything else. Once I do graduate from Cortland I’m going to grad school, preferably at U Albany or Syracuse. I pay for school with financial aid, TAP, and the Pell Grant. I also work at Target and Market 32 on breaks to pay for textbooks and food for the semester. If I didn’t get financial aid, I would probably be working full time at Target, and I don’t think it’d be possible to go to school at the same time as that.

Ceianna Farquharson, Buffalo State College

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I am a currently a freshman, undeclared major as for now, but studying to be a language interpreter. I receive financial aid from TAP and the Pell Grant and I am currently an EOP student. I also am currently receiving a grant from the New York Yankees because of my mother.

My biggest challenge is trying to stay calm and not to feel overwhelmed by the workload. I receive a lot of support. EOP supplies me with two textbooks and my family sends money to pay for the rest of my books. I have a meal plan paid through financial aid and also my mother helps me pay for food. I also do receive SNAP benefits as well. Also, I have a goal to complete work at a gradual pace so I won’t be overwhelmed by a last minute urgency.

We need SUNY fully funded because students who take the initiative to go into higher education deserve to be supported for their desire for higher success. Please continue to fund our schools and to fund me.

Reanna, Hunter College

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When I first started high school, I knew the scholarship I needed to receive. If I didn’t get it, there was a chance I wouldn’t be going to college. After four years of dedicating my life to studying, taking AP classes (with tests I could barely afford to take), and eliminating any chance of a social life which could distract me from my schoolwork, I am proud to say I received the private scholarship I dreamed of. So I did all that and burned myself completely before even going to college. While I was extremely grateful for the scholarship that would help me with tuition, I had no idea that financial burden was inescapable in college.

I am currently a sophomore at Hunter College. I came to Hunter as a pre-med student, but being so burned out freshman year, I saw my A+s that I got in high school transform into Cs. My scholarship was threatened and I was devastated. At the beginning of sophomore year, I decided to try anthropology courses and I fell in love. However, I had to get a part-time job to pay for my monthly metro cards and textbooks. Working almost every night after class drained every bit of energy I had and I could barely stay awake while studying. I struggle to maintain the 3.5 GPA that my scholarship requires me to maintain. Textbooks, especially online textbook codes have destroyed my bank account. Food and transportation remain major struggles. Why do students have to pay over one hundred dollars each month just to be able to get to their classes or to attend their jobs so they can have money to pay for all the costs of being a student?

I dream of getting a PhD in Anthropology and becoming an archaeologist. However, field schools for archaeology are extremely expensive and fieldwork is usually done abroad. I have no way of paying to travel to obtain these experiences and I fear being in major debt. I am honestly afraid of graduate school, as I know that the extreme financial burden that awaits.

Leidy Gallo, Queens College

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I was previously a part of ASAP and received stipends for textbooks and metro cards. I got tuition covered and with receiving the Pell Grant, I had money leftover that went toward gas and food.

This was my first semester at QC, and I get financial aid to cover my tuition, but it’s my first time having to pay for textbooks. The bill came to $380. There was an Italian book I needed. So one of my friends made copies for me this semester luckily. I had a larger refund when I was in ASAP which meant that extra money could go towards my son- clothing, gas, rent, food.  

I’ve had to budget a lot more this semester. I wasn’t able to buy a laptop that I needed for school. I try to use my phone to write essays which is horrendous. I got a zero on a paper because it didn’t go through on my phone and I don’t have a laptop. If I still had the support of ASAP, I’d have more leftover Pell money and could’ve bought a laptop and avoided this problem and future problems.

Evan Bogle, Queens College

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I am undecided but likely going into Accounting. My college experience has been impacted by budget cuts when it comes to advisement.  In high school you don’t get to pick your classes, but in college you have to suddenly do that and there are so many different factors we don’t know about going in.  

To get into certain majors you need a certain GPA, but this is something I was never told.   I figured that out by chance when I saw a poster for International Business which I’ve been thinking about majoring in.  When I was in high school, I maintained a certain GPA because I knew I needed it to get into college. Having knowledge of that stuff is important.

Another issue I’ve had is with class registration.   When you get a good enough grade in certain classes you can skip another class.  I took college algebra and got a B which meant that I didn’t need to take precalc.  I went to an advisor before picking my classes for the spring, and they could have explained to me that the grade I got in college algebra could allow me to skip taking precalc.  But that didn’t happen. Taking a class I don’t need to take is a waste when I could be taking other classes toward my graduation. So many people don’t graduate in 4 years. If the college had more money, they could hire more advisors.  The TAP Gap is cheating the university out of money.

Latsha Lee, Bronx Community College

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I’m a psychology major and part of the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)– it is critical for me to be able to attend BCC. Before I enrolled in ASAP, I worked full-time and was a full-time student as well. It was difficult to manage everything: I am a mom – I have two young boys (5 and 6), working full-time, plus taking 5 classes, helping out with the rest of my family.

I’m loving the free MetroCard. Last semester, I actually lost my card and they weren’t able to replace it. ASAP told me there wasn’t enough funding to replace lost cards! I don’t make use of the campus child care center. Back when child care was a bigger issue for me, I didn’t pursue my education. If I had known about it, I would have enrolled at BCC much earlier.

I do have a fear of not graduating on time. If I lose my financial aid, or I’m no longer able to be enrolled in ASAP for whatever reason, I won’t be able to afford to continue. But ultimately, I want to go to City College after graduating from BCC, to pursue studying law in the future.

Ashton Joseph, Queensborough Community College

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I am majoring in Psychology.  I want to become a mental health counselor for teens and young adults either at a school or have my own private practice.  I am a first generation college student. Both of my parents are from Haiti my dad went to college my mom didn’t. I am in limbo, hoping to graduate by next semester.  

In my Social Behavior course it was often so packed that I couldn’t get a seat and would show up and then just leave.  I didn’t do as well as I hoped to, as a result and am retaking the course in the fall. If high-demand classes were available in the summer and winter, and financial aid covered them, that would greatly help students graduate on time.  We need more class availability for classes that are highly in demand such as pre- or co-requisite classes. We need better paid adjuncts. Every single semester they’re trying to teach and do their best and not being paid as much as they should be.  There should be better trained advisors. One day I was in advisement and I had work at 2pm. I did a walk in and put my name down and waited almost 2 hours.

Julia Sweeney, SUNY Cortland

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I am a senior Biology major at SUNY Cortland. I originally thought about teaching biology, but I don’t like the program here. I’m not entirely sure what I want to do after graduation, but I am excited to graduate. I work two summer jobs and use financial aid to pay for school. I get some help from Pell and TAP but they don’t fully cover everything, but they do help with buying my textbooks and food for the year.

I don’t have time during the semesters to work, because I’m trying to balance school, labs, and everything else. That’s challenging enough without a job. If I didn’t get financial aid I wouldn’t be in college, period. I’m completely independent from my parents, I pay for my own car insurance and other bills, and I wouldn’t be able to afford life’s necessities on top of school without the help of financial aid.

I’m kind of concerned about graduating on time only because I’m taking a required class in my last semester here and I need to pass in order to graduate. We need to have fully funded SUNY because it would make life less stressful. We wouldn’t have to worry about if and how we’re going to afford to eat everyday, pay for books, and other bills.

Neely Benoit, SUNY Cortland

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I’m a Professional Writing major with a minor in Anthropology, and this is my fifth year here at SUNY Cortland. I’m planning to go to grad school after this to study Anthropology and Political Science. Right now, I take out private loans. I think I got the Pell Grant for about a semester, and it was only like $50. I don’t receive TAP, and I couldn’t even qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship.

I’m a student director in one of the campus buildings, and I also pick up shifts at Auxiliary Services as a floater. So I’ll wash dishes or cook chicken on the grill for six hours straight. In general, I work anywhere between 12 to 25 hours a week. I’m always looking for more work because I don’t get any money for rent or food, and that takes away from study time and homework.

I applied for food stamps, but I wasn’t eligible because I didn’t work enough to qualify. They don’t take into consideration that I’m also a full-time student. I’m already a year late to graduate, but I’ll be on track to graduate this year. If it wasn’t for working so much, I’m sure I would’ve graduated on time for my degree. We need a fully-funded SUNY so people like me can graduate on time and not have to worry about going to grad school because of all the private loans they’ve already taken out. I’m walking away from undergraduate degree with almost $100,000 worth of student debt. And that’s from a state school. I’ve already started paying those loans off for three years already. That’s another thing I pay for with work, besides car insurance, my car payment, internet, electricity, rent, food, and textbooks.

I don’t pay more than $300 a semester in books. If a semester cost me more than 300 bucks in textbooks, I would weigh which books are more valuable and get rid of the other ones. There are also some classes that require fees in order to take them. I took art for three semesters, and that was $200 for each course each time, totaling $600. And that doesn’t even cover materials. It covered studio space and workshop equipment.

My biggest challenge as a SUNY student has been finances. I worry more about my finances than I do about passing each class. I know I’m at a major disadvantage in class because I have to work so much more just to make sure that I have a roof over my head while I’m in school, or just to make sure the internet doesn’t cut off so that we can finish our homework. I think if we had a much lower tuition or if there were less hurtles to have to jump through for a student like me, then I might be able to not be in as much debt, and then I would be able to go to grad school without the fear of not just getting rejected, but also of it not being paid for.