Posts Tagged ‘financial aid’

Julia Sweeney, SUNY Cortland

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I am a senior Biology major at SUNY Cortland. I originally thought about teaching biology, but I don’t like the program here. I’m not entirely sure what I want to do after graduation, but I am excited to graduate. I work two summer jobs and use financial aid to pay for school. I get some help from Pell and TAP but they don’t fully cover everything, but they do help with buying my textbooks and food for the year.

I don’t have time during the semesters to work, because I’m trying to balance school, labs, and everything else. That’s challenging enough without a job. If I didn’t get financial aid I wouldn’t be in college, period. I’m completely independent from my parents, I pay for my own car insurance and other bills, and I wouldn’t be able to afford life’s necessities on top of school without the help of financial aid.

I’m kind of concerned about graduating on time only because I’m taking a required class in my last semester here and I need to pass in order to graduate. We need to have fully funded SUNY because it would make life less stressful. We wouldn’t have to worry about if and how we’re going to afford to eat everyday, pay for books, and other bills.

Rodney Colon, City College of NY

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I get financial aid but it’s tooth and nail fighting for it. Because the financial aid office is so understaffed it can be very challenging to get the aid I need. I waited an entire semester to get my refund check. I spent money on a credit card to buy textbooks.

The elevators are horrific, like I’m disabled, the elevators and the escalators are never functioning. They do these band-aid fixes and they’re constantly still in disrepair. 

I take the shuttle from the subway station, it is reliable but it gets super packed, they definitely need more buses.

Megan, SUNY New Paltz

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I am a double major: Sociology with a concentration in Criminology and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. As a senior at SUNY New Paltz, I’m not yet sure what I will be doing after graduation. I will likely be moving back home with my parents and working on Long Island in order to save money and plan for the future. I am paying for school through loans. I work about 34 hours a week between my two paid jobs. I also have an unpaid internship. Although I have worked throughout all four years of college, it is likely that I will have very little saved upon graduation as I have to spend my money on costs like groceries and rent.  I pay for books myself or share the cost/book with a classmate.

If I did not receive financial aid, I would be taking out more loans and therefore graduate with even worse debt than I will already be facing. Since I am a transfer student, a large sum of credits from my former university were not accepted at SUNY New Paltz. I did not think I would be able to graduate on time but am doing so by taking 18-credit course loads and enrolling in summer and winter classes that are not covered by financial aid.

We need fully funded SUNY and CUNY because education should be treated as a right, not a privilege. It is unacceptable that cuts are being made to opportunity programs that assist students who need the most support. More than that, it is disheartening that students like myself have to work multiple jobs on top of taking classes and being involved in our campus communities. We are over-worked, lack sleep and are sometimes malnourished.

Although I am extraordinarily busy, I make time for NYPIRG in order to advocate for things like fully-funded higher education and voter rights with the hope that generations to come don’t have to face the same struggles as myself and many of my peers. My story is not unique and absolutely not the worst of the pack. There are students who are responsible for going to school, paying for their livelihood (rent, groceries, medicine, etc.) who are also responsible for supporting their families at home, whether it be parents, siblings or children. Fully-funded SUNY and CUNY would alleviate the stressors that cause many students to drop-out of college. They would likely also increase enrollment rates, as money and/or lack of access to financial aid is one of the major reasons people choose not to go to college. Education is a right! And we will continue to fight, fight, fight!

Jade Cooper, City College of NY

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The trick to the financial aid office is you have to go super early to avoid the lines and crowd. The office itself isn’t too bad but calling them is the worst because you’re never going to reach anyone.  The problem is we need more workers, because three people at a desk trying to accommodate a hundred students at a time just doesn’t work.

We need a bigger office and it needs to open earlier so more people have access.

Ashley Gonzalez, City College of NY

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I major in English Creative Writing and minor in Journalism. It’s been a hassle, there is always something going wrong with FAFSA or financial aid.

It’s a hassle going in and out signing papers so everything can go through. I think our government should make it easier for new and transfer students, because for me as a transfer student there were too many things to do and you have to go to the office instead of being able to do it through FAFSA.


Hannibal Gray, NYC College of Technology

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When first applying for TAP, I had made a mistake on my form, where I said that my sister was my mother because they didn’t really have the guardianship title for TAP.

What I didn’t know is that if you do not live with your parents you can claim as legally independent, so they have me as dependent. I submitted a change form via mail and I gave a notarized letter accompanied with that change form saying that I live with my sister and that I get no financial support from my parents, and they didn’t change anything. They changed everything except for the parent income, which is preventing me from both getting my grades and registering for next semester. Paying for City University shouldn’t be my biggest stress.

Flor Najera, SUNY New Paltz

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I am a Public Relations major and Journalism minor.  I intend to graduate in December 2019. After college, I plan on attaining a stable job where I will pursue marketing and get a place of my own. However, I am not ruling out graduate school. I pay for school through financial aid as well as the two loans I took out. I feel blessed to be a part of the EOP program, where I have had an advisor and group of students in similar positions as me for the last four years helping me navigate the SUNY system.  I receive TAP and work study – I work at the student union front desk. I pay for textbooks through financial aid and receive a refund check of $150 per semester. In the case of that not being enough to afford all textbooks, I will turn to scanning or finding the electronic version.

Help also comes from Alumni donations to EOP that are applied toward paying for books.  I live on campus and have a meal plan that is paid for within financial aid. I do not make use of the childcare center located on campus, as I do not have any children. However, I still find the center to be beneficial because some of my professors bring their children there so they can teach for the day, which in turn allows me to receive an education. If I did not receive financial aid, I would still find a way to attend college, whether that be working as many shifts as possible, applying for scholarships, and loans.  It is important for me to receive at least a bachelor’s degree because of the difference it makes having one vs. not having one in the real world.

My family and I are immigrants. I am fortunate that I am able to attend college and receive a degree, and I am one of the first in my family to achieve this. My brothers did not go to college and had to work straight out of high school to help out my family financially. It’s tough because most businesses are expanding their credential requirements, most requiring a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. How can we work toward achieving what is required of us if it is not made available?

Lashanna Chance, Queensborough Community College

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I have been at Queensborough for two years studying music production. I am very invested in my classes but also produce and write my own music and poetry. I want people to see that I am a student, not a disability and actually working toward my goal of one day owning a record label. I am lucky to have great support at home and at QCC.

I do receive financial aid and I make sure I utilize every resource on campus. My advisers for VAPA (Visual and Preforming Arts) academy know me very well and help me to register for classes. I go to tutoring every day for statistics and writing. Everyone on campus knows me because I bother everyone. That is the only way to get help sometimes. My greatest issue here is getting around comfortably. I don’t even go to the student union where the NYPIRG office is because it is actually dangerous for me to wheel myself. 

For me, full funding for CUNY would mean open sourced or cheaper textbooks. Most of my books I can just get in the library, but it isn’t easy for me to get to the library, find a book and study with it for two hours. It is always too crowded and isn’t worth my time, so I just order my books. Also, accessibility could be way better. Most doors are not automatic. The double doors close on me. I’m pretty strong, but yesterday I was struggling to get through a door for 5 minutes! When elevators are broken, that is the worst. I have to leave for my class at least 45 minutes early from anywhere on campus just to make sure I get there on time. An unexpected broken elevator can be a big problem. 

Stephanie Moy, Hunter College

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I go to Hunter College, double majoring in Environmental Studies and Urban Studies, and minoring in Asian American Studies. I would like to preface this by clarifying that although my story will sound oddly similar to other students’ experiences with college, it is not a testament of how poorly we manage our time, but rather it is a multitude of personal and systematic circumstances that make us have to work that much harder to leave college successfully with degrees.

Tuition has been going up every year, yet the quality of education is remaining stagnant. Having been at Hunter for nearly four years, I have seen a decrease in diversity and availability of course offerings throughout the semesters, making it harder to finish elective requirements for my majors. In addition to that, I have lost all my financial aid in the last two years of college, even though FAFSA has been asking for the same tax forms with the same necessary information.

To go from having my financial aid covering the entirety of my tuition to having absolutely no funding, it has been an extreme financial burden. As a full time student with an internship and volunteer extracurricular activities, working a part time job in order to fund my education is another stressor making it all the more difficult to have a successful higher education career. Because of the limited course selections, it makes it more difficult to rearrange my class schedules to allow availability for a part time job.

For my first three years of college, I was working not only as a server three to four days a week, but also as an usher. After attending classes and doing all my extracurriculars in the morning and afternoon, I would have to rush to work, work another seven to eight hours, suffer through immense nightly train delays, and get home at 2 or 3am, only to study and do more schoolwork.

Losing my financial aid and having to pay the ever increasing cost of tuition has compromised not only my educational success in college, but also my mental and physical health. For years, I was only getting two the three hours of sleep maximum, if any at all. In addition to that, there were days I did not have time to meal prep and bring lunch from home, leaving me no choice, but to either buy lunch at school or skip out on meals because I simply could not afford it. This is why CUNY schools need more funding for more opportunities to expand financial aid programs.

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.