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Domonique Baker, SUNY New Paltz

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I first got a Medical Assisting certificate at Ridely Lowell which is a trade school which I am currently in $18,000 in debt for. l then got my Associates at Dutchess Community College in psychology.  I am now going for my Bachelors in Psychology. I didn’t qualify for any financial aid because I am independent, even though I only make $25,000 a year. I work full time to cover outside expenses like food, rent, utilities, a car.  I got a better job at a hospital recently which pays a little bit more. I take out loans for New Paltz. If I get a C or above in school my full time job gives me a grant of $2500 toward tuition. I work full time over night so I only sleep 3 hours a night. Its impossible to study.
If college was free I wouldn’t have to work so hard maybe just part time, it would greatly improve my college experience, I’d get to spend more time studying, and be able to meet deadlines. Now I record my notes to play while I’m driving. I have to take a course over because I got a D, it was a course that started at 11am but I got out of work at 9:30am and sleep deprivation made it hard to stay awake through the class. I now have to retake the class but its full. I often have trouble registering for a class because it interferes with work, especially since I live 30 minutes from campus. If the class is too close to 5pm or right after then I can’t take it. I wanted to get a concentration in organizational psychology but a lot of the required courses were at 8 am and since my job wants me to be at work that early it’s not realistic. I need the job though, so what can I do?

This limits the options I have for my future prospects of becoming a Physician’s Assistant. I am being constrained by these financial factors. I graduated in high school in 2008, I never thought I would even achieve a Bachelor’s degree. Some semesters I can only afford to go to school part time. I’ve had to keep stopping. I’m surprised I’m graduating. Even to pay for this semester I had to put it on a credit card because the tuition assistance from my job doesn’t kick in until later. I applied for the Excelsior Scholarship, one day I was on hold for 20 minutes, then 40 minutes. They said I didn’t have enough credits, I was in school for too many semesters, they said over the phone that as long as I don’t have a bachelors and meet the income eligibility I’d get it, but in the 11th hour of the last day they denied it because of credits. When I call them and talk to them no one knows anything. I spoke to a woman at the hospital who said the same thing. Financial aid said to just call the website. The website would say call TAP then you’re on hold for 40 minutes. I don’t blame the financial aid people, the people at the Excelsior office needed to be more informed.

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.

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.  

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.