Samantha Ortiz, Hunter College

I’m a junior at Hunter College majoring in Art History & Arts Management and Leadership, looking to work in the non profit and for profit arts in NYC. I pay for college with FAFSA, TAP, Pell Grant with the rest by working while going to school. The size of TAP has been an issue for me because I have to pay a lot due to my parents income but they do not contribute to my colleges fees at all. I am a first generation student and its difficult to not grow in an environment that does not prioritize studying. I have fair fares which cuts my fare rate in half but its still money taken away from school fees.This semester i bought a textbook that was almost $300 and I still had to buy other books.And for food,I rarely eat as I do not qualify for food stamps if I live with my parents even if I pay for my own things. This is the reality of many students in New York City. Advisement is not well suited for directing students to the proper places and often set a student back. I’ve been taking matters into my own hands regarding assistance with campus resources and my degree path. The buildings are dilapidated. There are nasty water leaks on one floor and broken tables in equipment on the next.In a class,a chair was broken and when I sat it stabbed me in the leg because metal was jutting out.In the womens restroons there are missing ceiling tiles and actual tiles in the bathrooms inside and over the stalls which make me worry that someone may have purposely done that or purposely not fixed it for nefarious reasons. The state of these buildings does not strike me with the joy that one should have when walking into college.

Shifa Giash, City College of NY

I’m a communications major and I hope to work in marketing one day. I pay for college through financial aid and government loans. The thing I struggle with most about the cost of college is definitely paying for living costs while in school as the aid does not cover dorming for things like transit and food costs.

Genesis Ramos, City College of NY

I am a sophomore studying digital design, I hope to get a job in animation. I pay for my tuition through financial aid. I am the first in my family to go to college and it’s a little stressful as I feel there’s a lot of pressure to be better than the people in my family as I’m a first generation. Some of my biggest financial costs have been paying for transportation, food and textbooks which is where I have to spend a lot of the money I earn working. I also have issues with our escalators and elevators often not working.

Isaac Johnson, SUNY Purchase

I am a senior studying liberal studies looking to get into business. I pay for my tuition with financial aid, loans and paying out of pocket. I would like to extend the years and money that is allowed to to be received from TAP. For example students who are in college a little longer than the regular 4-5 years aren’t allowed to receive some financial aid. Everything has been a big challenge for me due to the fact that I don’t receive certain financial aid programs and is paying out of pocket while being a full time student athlete. Transportation, food, textbooks all cost a lot of money while I am still paying for my tuition on my own.

Matthieu Rodrigues, SUNY Purchase

I’m a senior majoring in sociology still figuring things out. I pay for college by paying out of pocket and working while I’m in school. I think the eligibility for TAP should be way less strict and more accessible. One of my biggest challenges paying for college is the timing in when you have to pay. I always pay my semester fee late causing me to miss out on opportunities on classes I want to take.

Marina Misic, SUNY Purchase

I am a political science major, and after graduation, I look to pursue higher education whether that be a graduate degree or a degree in law. Within my career, I would like to do something revolving around human rights advocacy. I am lucky enough that the Excelsior scholarship as well as a few others helped me receive an education tuition free. I have worked in the retail sector for over 2 years now and I work from 20-40+ hours a week depending on the time of the year and my availability. I have received funds from TAP, I would just like to make it accessible for more students and to cover more of the expenses. My biggest challenge when paying for college was paying the full cost of the tuition outright for my first semester, with the scholarships I was supposed to receive only giving me a refund at the end of the semester. As a commuter, I live at home with my single mother and we both work to pay our rent and afford all of our necessities. Recently the used car I had paid in full, broke down in the middle of the road and it was not salvageable. To make sure I had a reliable means of transportation to school and work, I had to get another used car from a dealership and I now have an additional 230 dollar monthly expense for 6 years. I have dealt with the problem of not having enough class options. Attending a school where the conservatories are the most funded, as a political science major, our program only has 2 full-time faculty, one of whom had taken the spring semester off for a sabbatical. As a result of this, the professors are very limited in what they can teach and none of the classes that were listed in my requirements for U.S. Politics and Law Courses were offered and my professor even brought up her concerns regarding this.The overall lack of accessibility for disabled people regarding the issues with the elevator in the humanities building and various other dormitories are big issues on campus. Another issue I had was that I was walking to class on a cold day and I did not realize that there was ice because my path was not closed off and was covered in snow. The ice caused me to trip and hurt my ankle pretty badly, and after 3 weeks I still have pain in my joint because of it. I really would want a more accessible and better-maintained campus to avoid any other injuries.

Michael Blackson, SUNY Cortland

Through my personal experiences, growing up/ living in D.C., and even my high school it would all lead to me taking the leap and studying history here at SUNY Cortland. Post college I am seeking to work in the field of public history, public speaking, or governmental work. Though I wish I could live comfortably like other countries with free or even cheaper I still do have to pay for college through a combination of loans and paying for scholarships. In addition I have to work at least 20 hours week just to survive without any extra amenities.I am not eligible for TAP because I am a resident of D.C. not New York.Both luckily and unfortunately I am the first person to go to college. With this comes with the burden of setting examples to come and having no support or advice on college life. Paying back the school and other expenses simultaneously is the biggest challenge with college because it puts so much stress and anxiety on me about in and post college. I can’t always do all of the fun things my friends re doing because I don’t have networks of money. All of my time is for business never leisure.

Aidan Zafar, City College at NY

I am majoring in linguistics and literacy. I hope to continue work in human services, whether this be through working in education, speech pathology, or research. My tuition is paid solely through federal and state grants. I support my other college expenses by working 20 hours a week. As an independent student, it was a very difficult process to get TAP. There should be much more support on the state’s end for things such as paperwork, since that was the main issue I ran into. It takes 8-12 weeks to review requests for independent students, which means I did not get my aid amount until the very end of the semester. My biggest challenge is knowing that my tuition might not be accounted for every semester. I have trouble affording transportation costs. This is part of the reason I chose so many online classes. At my school, it is such a hassle to get advised. Before my first semester, I waited on zoom for hours to talk to an advisor. Now, trying to get advised for the fall is another hassle. We don’t have designated advisors in my department, just professors who have other things to do besides advise us. I don’t attend many in person classes. But the many broken links of CUNY have made the sites hard to navigate sometimes.

Steven Espinoza, Hunter College

I’m a political Science major at Hunter graduating this semester. I paid for my higher education through FAFSA. I’d want TAP to be more proactive in notifying students to file, or even of its existence. I feel like there are students are unaware of TAP. One of my biggest issues is transportation costs. I didn’t have enough money to pay for a swipe and the train was coming, so instead of refilling my card I jumped the turnstile. Cops pulled to the side and gave me a ticket instead of a warning, which was so frustrating because it was hard to pay that ticket off. I almost never paid for a textbook or book in college just because some of the prices were outrageously high. I always relied on student networking (group chats, classroom) to share the textbook/book with me. It’s frustrating to see that professors are prevented from sharing the textbook for free for their students. Honestly, the worst experience at Hunter is the support system. It’s so bureaucratic and burdensome, I can’t speak with an adviser without having to send an email or make a virtual appointment. I’ve never seen my advisor or talked to my advisor, until my final semester. These offices are not welcoming to students and reminisce the same vibe as a DMV. There’s also issues with the infrastructure is terrible, I was constantly reminded of it every where I walked in Hunter. It really feeds into the stigma of public schools. The elevators are consistently useless, it’s honestly faster to take the stairs.

Mahibur Mahi, Queens College

I’m a sophomore majoring in media studies. I hope accomplish something on YouTube or social media to then raise awareness for things I believe need fixing. I pay for tuition financial aid, pell grant and I also receive TAP. I’m the first in my family to go to college I think the biggest impact is I don’t know how much money I deserve to be payed out, but also I don’t have the best plan moving forward since I can’t predict how my financial aid might get affected every year. The biggest issue I had was forgetting to change my college for my tap in my first semester. I think it’s strange that some students entering colleges have to fill up their financial aid before they’ve even finalized where they’re going for college.