Posts Tagged ‘Excelsior Scholarship’

Malcom Michael, Buffalo State College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Ramona Shoy-Parker, Brooklyn College

I am a freshman at Brooklyn College studying Communication Television and Radio.  Without the Excelsior Scholarship, I would have needed to take out a loan.  Luckily, I found out about the scholarship through Forest Hills High School. They pushed me to fill out FAFSA early. They had an assembly about the scholarship and sent emails with a link to apply.  I don’t plan to stay in Brooklyn College.  My mom just moved to Florida and I will be transferring to a school down there.  I am aware that the scholarship will turn into a loan however, I am still grateful because the scholarship gave my mother time to save up before she can start paying out of pocket.

Currently, balancing work and school is a lot.   I am taking 15 credits while working 40 hours a week to pay for additional costs such as textbooks, food and transportation. My mom helps me out with the costs but balancing it is a lot, especially straight out of high school. If I had the option to take fewer classes I would. I believe the scholarship would be better if students were able to take a mandatory 12 credits because 15 is a lot of pressure, especially since the scholarship doesn’t cover Winter or Summer semesters.

Eric Ransom, College of Staten Island

I was initially rejected from the Excelsior Scholarship. I was looking forward to having my last year of college paid for. When I did some research into why I was rejected, I realized it had to do with the amount of credits I had. As an Excelsior applicant, I needed to have 90 credits going into my senior year but only had 89. I realized that my college level courses in high school had not been transferred to CSI. I had taken credits through College Now at Kingsborough Community College when I was in high school that had not automatically been applied to my transcript.

Once I contacted my high school, I was able to access the credits, appeal and qualify for the scholarship. I had taken out loans for the first three years, gotten some TAP and some merit scholarships. Excelsior came at the right time, I figured if I could get it for my last year that would be great so it was worth appealing! For the rest of the costs I have a small savings from my grandfather and I work 20 hours a week. This pays for books, food and metrocards.

Textbooks are definitely the most stressful cost. I pay around $200 a semester. I don’t know a lot of people who applied for Excelsior, maybe only one other person. I found out because I saw the commercial on TV and the news stories. My parents also saw it and urged me to apply. I think that the 15 credit requirement is fair as long as students know about it beforehand. As far as the four year requirement, I think it would be unfortunate if they got a job outside of the state, but for majority of students I think it’s fair. For me that would be the least fair part of the scholarship.

Nicole Vasquez, Hunter College

As a dual enrollment student taking high school classes and college classes at the same time, I felt prepared for college, but not for the debt that would come with it. I am a full time junior who works part time and tries to chip in for tuition as I see my parents struggle to make ends meet.
I applied to the Excelsior Scholarship looking for some financial relief and was denied because I only completed 24 credits my first two semesters instead of 30 at Hunter College.  This was because I had already accumulated college credit in high school, so it wasn’t necessary to overload my schedule.  New York should have affordable education for everyone so that students can focus on school and being able to buy health meals, instead of having to juggle work, travel expenses and school.