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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.

 

Susan Brea Riley, SUNY New Paltz

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I have a few grants, some scholarships, and the Excelsior Scholarship. I pay for nothing but books, however the excelsior scholarship definitely needs to be a little more transparent with it’s requirements, I didn’t have an issue with them at first but then they didn’t want to give me the scholarship even after I got in and qualified for it because I had 9 credits on my transcript from a school I used to go and paid out of pocket for because everything was too expensive, I had to budget a lot of things out of my shopping list and even went on a diet due to my school expenses while at my last school. I was considering taking out loans before the excelsior scholarship came around because I was literally putting my health at risk by not wasting money that could go into school, college is a necessity and so is higher education there is no reason for it to be treated like it’s a luxury when we have western countries being just as successful as we are.

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.  

Peter Sophist, SUNY New Paltz

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Well in general CUNY and SUNY tuition hikes are detrimental to lower class students who rely on the lower tuition for their advanced education. As you mentioned because of the hikes students are having to resort to increasingly drastic measures to make up the money. In my case I’ve been penny pinching since middle school so I’ve accumulated enough savings to pay through undergrad out of pocket. However the tuition (and especially the hike) has had me reassess my financial situation to see what I’ll have to cut and what I’ll have to do in order to afford it. Since on top of paying for school, I live alone and basically have been living self-sufficiently. On a side note I’m living almost exclusively on white rice to keep a monthly surplus.

Haley Gray, SUNY New Paltz

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I am currently a Senior.  When I decided that I wanted to major in art education I chose to come to SUNY New Paltz for their top rated art education program. Since the budget cuts it’s been nearly impossible for me to get all of the classes that I need in order to graduate. When I first transferred here there were so many more sections of classes offered. Making my schedule last semester was a nightmare because the classes I needed for my major and the classes I needed in order to fulfill my general education requirements conflicted in time slots. I had to repeat studio courses that I had already completed just to fulfill the requirements for my major. This semester I had the same experience. Not being able to take the studio courses in my concentration negatively impacts my educational development and my ability to teach in the future. I’m paying for a quality education but due to budget cuts out of my control, my education is being compromised.

Malik Mckenzie, SUNY New Paltz

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I am currently in $33,000 of student loan debt, and I’m one of the lucky ones, as I know of people whose debt far exceeds that amount. There was never an option of paying out of pocket as I, nor anyone in my family can afford the astronomically high amount it cost to attend school.

The constant rise of tuition is a serious issue for all students as it is pricing out lower income families from a higher education. Even those currently receiving the Excelsior Scholarship could lose it and be faced with this hike.