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Hannah Falk, SUNY Cortland

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I’m currently a senior studying international studies and political science at SUNY Cortland. After graduation, I plan to work abroad, specifically in the Australian government.

In order to pay for school, I use financial aid as well as out of pocket payments. I receive both TAP and the Pell Grant to help cover the costs of school, but I also work part-time on campus for 20 hours a week on top of taking 19 credits. I use the money I make working to help pay for groceries, but I also use the student food cupboard on campus.

I pay for textbooks out of pocket with money from working. They’re expensive every semester, and I’m concerned that I won’t graduate on time and will have to pay for even more books all over again. There are classes that I’m required to take that are only offered at specific times, and I still haven’t been able to take them.

College should be accessible to everyone, and by making SUNY fully funded, it will be. Not everyone has the opportunity to attend college and financial aid doesn’t always cover everything, so students are left responsible to pay for the remaining costs. As students, our concern shouldn’t be having enough to eat. We should be focused on our education.

The biggest challenge that I’ve faced as a SUNY student is trying to afford both housing and food. My financial aid doesn’t cover housing because it is all spent on paying for my tuition, so I have to find ways to pay for it myself.

Wasan Bahr, SUNY Cortland

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I’m a senior at SUNY Cortland studying Teaching English as a Second Language. After graduation, I plan on getting a teaching job and to begin working towards paying off my extensive student debt.

I pay for school in a few ways. I take out student loans and work a few part-time jobs, such as driving for Uber, cleaning houses, and interpreting for various places in the Syracuse area. As for TAP, I’m not eligible because I was working full-time, and I made too much money two years ago to qualify. I only receive about $200 from the Pell Grant, and I work as much as possible so that I am able to pay for college. As for textbooks, I use financial aid to pay for them. I don’t receive SNAP, so my husband and I pay out of pocket for groceries.

If I didn’t receive financial aid, I would not be able to go to school because it is so expensive. I have had no choice but to take out student loans, so I’m hoping to get a job after graduation that will help to pay off my student loans. I have no worries about graduating on time, but I am a non-traditional student.

SUNY should be fully funded and affordable so that students have the ability to attend college and ultimately have more opportunities and a better quality of life where they’re not forced to work low-paying jobs. 

Andi Bruce, SUNY Cortland

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I’m a freshman at SUNY Cortland studying English and philosophy with minors in women, gender, and sexuality studies, and in economics. At this point, I don’t have a definite plan for after graduation.

I pay for school with scholarships, financial aid, and loans. I receive TAP and the Pell Grant, and I also work through the work-study program as a part of my financial aid. I use my aid to pay for some of my tuition and textbooks, and I have a meal plan. Like many other students, if I didn’t receive financial aid I would not be able to attend college.

My biggest challenge as a student has been thinking about the future. The Excelsior scholarship was not clear about how they deduct Pell and TAP grants, so my parents had to take out an extra loan right before the tuition bill was due so I could afford to go here. I’m going to have all this debt to pay off when I leave college, and that’s stressful to think about.

We need fully funded colleges because in this economy you can’t rise up without a college education, and preventing someone from receiving such an education is depriving them of equal opportunity and a chance at the life they want and deserve. I think college should be free for everyone, everywhere. Education should be a right, not a privilege. 

Martinez, Borough of Manhattan Community College

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I am a Video Art and Technology Major at BMCC. In the spring of 2020, I will be graduating from college with my associates degree. I have interests in arts and humanities, science and acting. I know the exact subjects I need in order for me to graduate. However, I was disappointed by the fact that the college limited the amount of classes you could take per a semester. At BMCC we are not allowed to go over 15 credits for each semester and it troubled me that I was having problems with advisement.

My advisor changes every semester and I can not see the same advisor twice for some reason. I believe if we have the same advisor throughout our college year or at least throughout the semester students wouldn’t encounter any doubts about their major, or struggle with picking the right class. Also by adjusting the limit to a higher number of credits would help students graduate faster and save more money. I have a part time job where I use my earnings to cover my MTA card and food. While my guardian takes care of my tuition. I believe a fully funded CUNY would give students better equipment to use for their assigned work and better teachers that will make sure students benefit from each class they attend.

Saphirah McNeil, Borough of Manhattan Community College

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I am a Business Management Major at BMCC. I believe that I will be graduating on time once I have enough money to pay my tuition. The Financial Aid office and the ASAP program both determined that I’m not qualified to receive aid or enter their program. So, I work part time to provide for myself.

Before attending BMCC, I attended the Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts. Back then it wasn’t a struggle to receive aid. Aid to pay your tuition was fully funded through fafsa and it seemed like they helped provide many opportunities that helped students avoid student debt. I have never been in debt before, not until coming to New York that is. It’s honestly a struggle to be a New York student that wants a certificate in what they are passionate about. I believe that there would be a more stress-free campus that wouldn’t deter students or people looking to become graduates with a fully funded CUNY.

Shanelle Emanuel, Borough of Manhattan Community College

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I am a Political Science Major at BMCC. I aspire to be a future business owner and be involved with politics.  With the help of financial aid I will be graduating in spring, 2020. I try my best to utilize the programs and services that BMCC offers such as the counselling office and the finance and banking club. I strive to graduate on time with great grades and a solid understanding in the subjects that I took, so I can apply it to the world that I live in.

However, sometimes the workload can be too overwhelming for me. I keep on going so I can achieve my goals. I have a job that helps me pay for other expenses outside of my college tuition. Food, clothes and my metro card are some of the things my wages from my job covers. With a fully funded CUNY I believe my campus would have more classes, more access to free textbooks used in class, free transportation to get to classes, and less students in debt.

Stephanie Appau, Borough of Manhattan Community College

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I am a Business Management Major at BMCC. I am expected to graduate in the fall of 2020, once I pass all of my classes. It was fortunate for me to be accepted into the ASAP program at BMCC. The program covers my tuition and transportation fees. Without the ASAP program I wouldn’t be able to take winter or summer courses. Without these courses I would not be able to graduate on time. After I obtain my degrees I would like to open a vet and animal daycare in New York. I have a part time job that helps me pay for my rent and other bills outside of school. One of my main academic goals is to graduate with a high grade point average. To achieve this goal I’m pushing myself to be a better student. To give myself time to study so I could achieve my academic goals.

Margarita, Borough of Manhattan Community College

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I am a stay at home mother. I just had a baby girl a year and a half ago and have another child on the way. I decided to come to BMCC to study Business Management so that I can have a qualification when I decide to go back into the world of work. I aspire to transfer to a four-year college to study business management, hopefully Zicklin School of Business because I want to open my own business someday.

I don’t qualify for any of financial aid because my household income is considered to be above the threshold. So everything I need for school comes out of my pocket. Because I did just have a baby and another one on the way, school is expensive for me. I have to buy textbooks and make sure that I’m in class for the minimum required time. One textbook can come to about $180 and the transport money does add up.

My strategy to mitigate costs is to take only one or two classes per semester. This unfortunately will delay my graduation which is not ideal but I have no choice at the moment.

Samson, Borough of Manhattan Community College

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I am a 19-year-old finance major at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. I tried to apply for financial aid, however my parents are categorized as middle-class citizens therefore I didn’t qualify for financial aid. My parents help with paying my tuition and I have to get myself everything else. I pay for all my textbooks and transport to and from school. These all add up and it gets expensive.

I work in the restaurant industry and have aspirations of becoming a restaurateur one day. I came to BMCC to study finance because I want to have a greater knowledge of business financials for my career path.

When I started at BMCC I had to see an academic advisor, someone I thought would be invested in my career choices and give me advice for future academic options — as well as be a consistent person every semester. This for was not the case, I was assigned a different advisor for each semester and found myself having to recite my story each time a saw an advisor. I felt that I didn’t matter, because the only advice I would receive would be what classes I needed to take next, how many credits I had earned and was still to earn. Honestly, things I could have done on my own.

Luis Alvarez, Bronx Community College

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I qualify for this service because of my visual disability and cognitive disability. Without Access-a-Ride I would not be able to travel from home to school. Although it is a crucial service in my life, it is not an accessible service. From my experience, people that book the rides are not well-trained; I have been dropped off in the wrong address once before already. I traveled to BK (I’m from the BX) and after being stranded there for the first 45min (the time it took just to rebook the trip) I still had to wait another 2 hours for a vehicle to be dispatched to finally be picked up.

Approximately 1 year ago while in school, I had another incident. It was the day of the big snowstorm and AAR is not well equipped to handle weather changes or extremes, they do not communicate well. They do not notify when they are outside or if they’re running late. I called them and they were busy. Two hours passed and had 1% battery on my phone. My phone died and I didn’t know what to do. Public Safety on campus said I had to wait and they’d wait with me or I could take a train, but due to my cognitive disability I cannot remember things well, especially when I’m nervous or anxious, like this situation with all my adrenaline pumping I don’t know what’s going on. I didn’t want to wait any longer! Mind you they are two hours late for the pickup- it was at 6, and I was still on campus at 8. So, against my better judgement, I decided to take the train. I started walking to the train- and I’m a big person, so on top of my visual disability I have a physical disability- I am walking down and I fall and slide down the sidewalk. My knees were scraped. When I finally arrive at the train stop I try to walk up the stairs, because it does not have an elevator or escalator, and I fell down again. I call AAR when I get home, and then they say I was written up as a “no-show” because they were out there but I was not. I got written up! I was anxious I’d lose my AAR privileges.

Another instance: I book my ride for 9 am because I have class at 11am and pickup for 6pm. Sometimes they do not pick me up until 12:30 and I miss my class! Numerous times I have missed class or I am late and it just does need to change. You pick a pick-up and drop-off location and they are NOT flexible with this. I am a student, a disabled student, so I need to go to tutoring a lot and I need to stay a little longer, lectures sometimes run short, ETC., so sometimes I miss my pickup time and I call and they say there is nothing they can do. I understand their standpoint but they need to be more flexible with students. I am not at the movies or at a bar, I am literally pursuing my education and betterment and I should not be punished for that. We need a better program for disabled students!