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Posts Tagged ‘Excelsior Scholarship’

Suraiya Priyanka, Hunter College

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I am a second semester freshman at Hunter College and currently undeclared because I’m narrowing down which major interests me most. I am trying to graduate college as soon as possible, which means I have to take 15 credits per semester, but that is very difficult when you also have to work and support your parents. I receive financial aid from TAP and Excelsior, but that only covers my tuition and Excelsior only gives me a few hundred dollars. I considered applying for ASAP since it would’ve been very helpful to me, but it is not offered at my college. I have to pay for my other expenses including textbooks, food, and transportation.

In my four people household, my dad is the only one that works full time and I work a part time job two days a week. If I decided to prioritize earning money and worked a couple extra days, I wouldn’t be able to focus on school and graduate on time. I already struggle to pay for food, textbooks, and transportation so if I didn’t receive aid to cover my tuition, I would not be able to go to college at all. In high school, I didn’t have to worry about all these things and all of a sudden, with all of this pressure being put on me, I constantly find myself trying to balance school and work and am left with no time to relax. Taking 5 classes every semester and also working is too much to handle and as a result, I am concerned that I won’t be able to do well in school or graduate on time.

We need a fully funded CUNY because many students depend on it. New York City is filled with low-income students and families who choose CUNY because it is advertised as a more affordable option, when in reality it is not. So far, my biggest challenge with being a CUNY student has been financial aid. If all my college expenses were paid for and covered by the government, I would be able to focus a lot more on my education and not have to stress about my finances. CUNY needs to be free again because New Yorkers need free public college now more than ever before.

Rebecca Garcia, Hunter College

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Starting my college journey has definitely been stressful due to financial complications. I spent my freshman year of college at the University at Albany and then transferred to Hunter College my sophomore year. When I was figuring out how to pay for my freshman year tuition, I found that I was ineligible to receive full financial aid from Pell or TAP. This was difficult because my parents were not financially able to cover the rest of the University at Albany’s $14,000 annual costs.

To make matters worse, as a freshman, you are forced to live on campus your first two years and have an unlimited meal plan (which was the most expensive plan) with no way to opt-out of those choices to pick a cheaper alternative. My parents and I were then forced to take out student loans with extremely high-interest rates that I will not be able to pay off until I am in my thirties. Already in my first year, I was $30,000 in debt with student loans. I could not fathom how much debt I would be in once I graduated from there.

However, due to the introduction of the Excelsior Scholarship I was able to have my tuition paid for by the state. This is why I moved back to New York City to attend Hunter College. I can now continue my education without having to worry about paying for mandatory meal plans or dorming. I am currently a junior at Hunter College majoring in Urban Studies and hopefully double majoring in Sociology. I am still unsure of where I would want to go with my degree, however, I am hopeful for the future.

Although my story seems to have a happy ending, I know that there are thousands of students just like me who are not able to receive this scholarship or any type of aid due to these programs’ strict requirements. These students are then left to endure balancing both work and school. Allowing CUNY to be fully funded would help countless individuals. We all know that higher education is an important asset to survive in this growing economy so college needs to be financially accessible to everyone. No student should be boxed out of the Excelsior Scholarship; every student should have the same experience I’m having. And had free public college been a reality sooner, I would not be $30,000 in debt.

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 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 for solely tuition. This scholarship doesn’t include dorms, meal plans, studio fees, lab fees, athletic fees, transportation fees etc.

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. In the end, I chose to stick with the aid I was already receiving because it came out to more than the scholarship. But why do I have to choose?

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. 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 College

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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. I 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. To pay for this semester, I had to put it on a credit card though, because the tuition assistance from my job doesn’t kick in until later. 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 it’s 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 8am 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 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.

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. 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 its requirements. I didn’t have an issue with it at first but then they didn’t want to give me the scholarship even after I qualified and was accepted for it because I had 9 credits on my transcript from a school I used to go to. 

There, I paid out of pocket for everything and it 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. 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.

Michael D’Amato, Brooklyn College

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I am the first in my family to go to college, thanks to the help of a partial TAP award, the Pell Grant the SEEK program and now the Excelsior Scholarship. I am a transfer student, attending Brooklyn College to obtain my Bachelors of Science in Psychology. My father had also lost his job two years ago, so my financial aid situation has fluctuated each year based on how much he makes.

Overall, I am  able to go to school and be the first in my family to graduate college, so I am very thankful that the scholarship has helped with that. The idea of living in New York after graduation is not a problem. The idea of taking 30 credits by the end of the year, however, is.

12 credits a semester is already a lot. I am currently only taking 12 credits this semester, through the SEEK program, which I have been a part of since attending Kingsborough Community College. 

 Without the Scholarship or any financial aid, I would have paid out of pocket since my family is against the idea of taking out loans. The most stressful cost for me right now is my metro card.