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Posts Tagged ‘Excelsior Scholarship’

Sarah Zielstorf, SUNY Cortland

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As a college student I knew I would have my fair share of financial issues. Applying for scholarships, grants and taking out loans can be a painful process, especially when you’re deemed not poor enough to get actual help and not rich enough to cover the expenses. I’m a sophomore at SUNY Cortland and am currently in the BFA studying studio art but I plan on changing my major to gear more towards illustration/animation. My career goals involve working for major companies creating storyboard art for tv shows/movies or video games. As an artist I understand that right from the get go I won’t have an immediate high paying job, it’s something I will have to work hard for and I look forward to that part of my life. Furthermore as an artist I know money will be tight but I haven’t even stepped foot into that career field yet and I’m already facing many financial struggles that I was under the impression would be taken care of. As of right now I have received the federal Pell grant, TAP, federal Perkins loan and other loans and I also work to get myself through school. And sadly that still isn’t enough. Due to a low credit score I am unqualified to get more loans that would pile on to my amount of debt. I couldn’t afford to pay my tuition up front so now I make monthly payments, any money I earn I can barely touch because it goes towards a $500.00 monthly payment plan that my mom struggles to help me with.

Any time I need to spend money or finally agree to eat out I always check in with my mom to see if I can afford it. I report back to her any payments I made so we can keep track of our funds. The Excelsior scholarship promised to aid those making $100,000 a year or less. I fall under that category as do many others. The Excelsior Scholarship also claimed it would cover tuition payments and as years progressed the threshold would increase so no one had to pay for college and be in debt. Sounds great right? And it is, in theory. I understand that when any new program rolls out there are bumps in the road but my experience with the scholarship was anything but helpful. If the items on your college bill don’t have the word “tuition” in it you pay for it yourself. Though it’s true that any amount of money is helpful, the specific qualifications for the scholarship helped as little people as possible. One of my friends who received it only got $1,000. After receiving financial aid, federal aid etc and receiving the Excelsior Scholarship I thought I was finally free of counting pennies to see if I could buy a half gallon of milk, I was wrong. The Excelsior Scholarship only allows up to $5,000 per student. Although I qualified, the extra aid I received covered many expenses so the Excelsior Scholarship was taken away from me. The federal aid I received due to my poverty disqualified me from getting more help. I had to pick my poison; get more money from aid, loans and grants, or get anywhere from a few hundred to $5,000 for solely tuition. This scholarship doesn’t include dorms, meal plans, studio fees, lab fees, athletic fees, transportation fees etc. I chose the aid I received because it came out to more than the scholarship. But why do I have to choose?

Those whose incomes are higher don’t qualify for the federal aid that I received so they would receive the Excelsior Scholarship, but I’m not rich enough to solely rely on that. Those who are poorer than me recieve even more aid and may not need Excelsior. Is it better to be so poor that you require full government aid to get you through school?

College is a time for fun, experimenting, learning and so much more. I shouldn’t be crippled by my financial situation. The financial aid office also required my parents 2015 tax records, my financial situation has changed drastically in two years! Looking at recent records most likely would have helped me get more aid but that is not the way the system works. I want to study abroad so I have a savings account but on more than one occasion we’ve had to dip in to help with payments. So I work more to save more money which gets exhausting and cuts into my social life, but I wouldn’t even be able to go to college without this job so I have to keep working.

After going back and forth with the financial aid office (who were not given information about the Excelsior Scholarship) and the Excelsior Scholarship office for two weeks I thought I wouldn’t be able to attend college again and I would have to stay home to work. Luckily I was able to take out a loan and work some more with the financial aid office and dip into my savings account. Life isn’t easy, people have to make sacrifices and work hard, but college is about getting integrated into adult life slowly, not getting thrown in and suffering all the way through.

Malcom Michael, Buffalo State

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Since I was adopted from Russia by my single mother who possess a PHD in English literature, the importance of my education has been emphasized from early on in my life.   As my high school years elapsed and the daunting reality of the real world loomed over my conscience, I found myself applying to community college. To my surprise there were a lot more hurdles I had to overcome then just an entrance exam. Despite New York State offering a wide variety of financial aid support to students, I was unable to qualify for any financial aid.  Thus, my mother and I took loans to supplement the cost of community college. By the end of my two year program the debt I had accumulated was over $9000. With my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice I transferred to Buffalo State College where I am now a senior studying Political Science. As my first year at Buffalo State waned into the past I had accumulated a loan which surpassed $20,000. During the summer prior to my senior year I moved from Buffalo State campus into an apartment close to campus. The summer of 2017 was the beginning to a life full of relentless stress and physical pain. As bills began to pile up I found myself working full time at a local pizzeria.  Luckily for the first time I was actually able to receive financial help from the New York State government through the new Excelsior Scholarship. Which was even harder to receive than loans. Along with the hoops one has to jump through, the programs has many restrictions which have the potential of crippling students. An example of one of these restricting parameters is the required number of credits a student must take during a semester in order to receive the financial support. Over my senior year here at Buffalo State College I have been working 40+ hours a week while being a full time student. The financial burden of living expenses such as rent, utilities, food etc., has made it increasingly difficult to focus and dedicate spare time to school. The fear of eviction and the potential of being homeless is a daunting reality for students who fully support themselves. I often find myself worrying about my finances, rather than worrying about important school assignments.

Rachael Adeloye, College of Staten Island

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I am a sophomore and currently a Liberal Arts major but I plan to become a police officer after I graduate.  I’ve worked with the police for the last two years during the summer and it’s been a real eye opener for me because I barely see any black female police officers there, and that’s something I’d like to change.

Unfortunately, my plans suffered a setback this year.  My GPA is too low to receive financial aid this semester, including the Excelsior Scholarship, but past semesters I did receive aid.   Without the aid my family and I have been struggling to find a way to pay for school out of pocket.  We now are living paycheck to paycheck, and even though there are a lot of things we would like to do, due to lack of funds we can no longer do them.

As a person who was not born in this country, I feel like the system is not set up in a way that enables me to succeed.  For example, I’m doing poorly in my English 151 class and my professor tells me I don’t know how to write to an American standard, but then he doesn’t have the time to teach me how to correct it.  A fully funded CUNY would mean that professors would be able to spend more time with each student, more student services would be available to help students like me improve skills like writing, and I could commit to being a full-time student without burdening myself or my family.

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.

Clark Adomaitis, CUNY City College

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I am a sophomore. My major is Economics with a concentration in Business Administration and Management. I

hope to one day become an activist focused on environmental inefficiency and to also teach a college poet

ry class on rap. Currently, my parents pay for my tuition, as well as the costs to dorm on campus. I do not qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship, TAP, or Pell Grants, so the full burden of my college education falls on my parents and students loans. I

believe in a fully funded CUNY system so that every student can attain the high quality education they deserve. With a fully funded CUNY, students like myself will no longer have to struggle financially and can fully focus on our future.

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.

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.