I attended The Borough of Manhattan Community College and for me it was not that difficult but it was challenging.I was not eligible for financial aid because my parents were both working, so I was not at all given any rewards from them. It was because my parents had worked for thirty plus years, which caused me to not be eligible for financial aid so we had to pay out of pocket for my school. Around that time my family had moved into a private home. It was then after that that every year would be a little harder, we had to do some renovations, so the majority of the money that my parents made had to go into fixing the house. It took me about 4 years to finish at BMCC because I had to be a part-time student and get a job because I did not want to overwhelm myself with school and so that my parents didn’t have to spend so much money on me and books and also the house. It would have been too much.
By the end of my last 2 years I started to work as an Usher at the school, so I was able to pay for classes for myself and help around the house whenever I needed. Since I’m living with my parents, they didn’t charge me for rent but if they needed money for the basics like food or any other essentials, they’d ask me or my brother. I worked about thirty hours a week. Yeah, it got a little stressful in the end, but it wasn’t as bad compared to other students who had to take out loans, I thankfully had no loans to pay back.
At BMCC I was studying Small Business Entrepreneurship. I would like to own a photography company and as an art major it’s more for the experience and the networking, so studying or getting a degree means getting the experience that not everyone would get by doing it on your own. Going to college helps you get your foot out the door, but you have to push yourself to make the next step.
I am studying Business Administration at Queensborough Community College, and I want to pursue accounting in the future. This is my second year, and I am graduating in Fall 2020. I’m currently in ASAP and they help cover some expenses and books, but I don’t receive any financial aid and pay out of pocket for tuition during the summer or winter sessions. Because of COVID-19 I haven’t been able to work for a month, but I still have to pay off my bills and help support my family.
I am an immigrant. The only way I can pay for this college is by working and working too much. I have to deal with my travel expenses, meals, and then my tuition or textbook expenses. I work three jobs to get myself going and also help my family financially too as we are here to make our future. A fully funded CUNY would take a big load of stress off of me and my family, and would especially help immigrant families who are trying to save as much as they can to have a secure and better future.
Being QCC’s Student Government President I think if people didn’t have to worry about paying for college, they could have more time to study or get involved with campus life and opportunities, rather than running to work right after class.
I am a dual major in Children and Youth Studies and Political Science. I hope to be an advocate and fight for matters that are important to me. I have decided to pursue Children and Youth Studies because there are many children in Bangladesh, my native country that continue to suffer with little to no voice. I am fortunate enough to come to the United States and pursue education. But many children around the world are not as lucky. I hope to make a change in how children are viewed and treated in society. Thus, I decided to major in Political Science also, because in order to make a change I need to have the power to influence or be part of policymaking such as through activism.
I receive Pell, TAP, and I also work to put myself through school. The financial aid awards covered my higher education costs like tuition, textbooks. But it definitely does not cover my food, rent, and other living expenses. I work to cover my living expenses such as food and transportation. I have one job and I work 20 hours a week. It is hard to pay for commuting while paying tuition so I have to work. I would like to see the state support students with the other costs associated with college that people often forget about.
I am a freshman at Brooklyn College. I’m currently undecided. But I hope to major in something that will guarantee a job as soon as possible, so I’ll probably major in something STEM-related. I always knew I had to study and get a higher education so I could be financially independent, move out, and live my life on my own terms.
I currently receive a Pell Grant and TAP. I am the first woman in my family to go to college. I hate the anxiety of filling out my FAFSA when I don’t know how much money I’ll receive. I don’t know why I received less money this year too. The financial aid I receive covers my tuition, textbooks and lab fees. But it does not cover rent, food, and living expenses. I don’t have a job right now but I am looking for one so that I can cover the added expenses of college that people don’t normally consider. I’d never be able to pay rent and pay tuition at the same time. That’s why I still live with my family. TAP should be expanded so that students can better focus on their studies and worry less about the added expenses of education.
As a first year college student, I was not prepared for how challenging life outside of the classroom could be. Many of my friends have struggled with food insecurity due to not being able to pay for their meals, because their schedules are so packed that they can’t balance having a job plus being a full-time student. We’re forced to eat on-campus, which is very expensive and a lot of the time isn’t accessible enough to students with different needs. This then adds additional stress to us, which makes being a successful student almost impossible.
I’ve also seen how little mental health resources are made available to students. I’ve struggled with mental health issues over the past year, and being able to get help has been a major struggle. I have had to wait hours for an appointment at times due to a lack of available staff and resources. I know many other schools don’t have nearly as many resources for students on-campus that we do. We cannot reach our potential as students or even live normal lives if we don’t have a support system to provide us with the assistance we need.
I’m a first-year student majoring in criminal justice. After obtaining my bachelors I want to go to law school and become a criminal lawyer or a human rights lawyer. I receive TAP and a Pell Grant along with financial aid. My tuition is covered.
Unfortunately I do not have my own advisor. I have an opportunity to join the BLA program at my college but I fear that if I join BLA I will not be able to get any help from other programs such as ASAP. College textbooks, lunch, and transportation are expenses outside of tuition. I was looking for a job but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been made difficult to find a job and register for the upcoming semesters’ classes. My family and I are immigrants from Italy. Nobody in my family is working right now because of the pandemic. If I don’t get a STEM waiver, I will not be able to afford summer or winter courses. I am fortunate that I am able to attend college and receive an education that I can be proud of.
Personally I’m a very determined student. Being an immigrant pushes me to achieve unimaginable things such as getting a high school diploma in one year and doing 4 years’ worth of high school material by going to Saturday classes and waking up very early. I make sure that I am still on track even now because I’m that determined. We need a fully-funded CUNY because we are very motivated and dedicated students. If CUNY were to be fully funded, we would have better infrastructure that would allow us to get to class on time, instead of taking detours, and the staff we need to succeed.
I am majoring in Sociology and pursuing a certificate in Public Policy at Hunter College. This is my last semester. I just found out that I got accepted into graduate school in Spain where I will be getting a Masters in Education. I plan on being a teacher for at least the next few years after that. I am also considering going to law school eventually, but that would be many years from now. The reason that I chose this program is because if I work at a school, my tuition fees get waived. I wish I could say the same for my time at Hunter. I am paying for my education at Hunter College with a few different merit scholarships, both private and through my program at Hunter, without which I would not be able to attend school or I would have to make the difficult decision to take out a massive loan. The rest is covered with a combination of mine and my mother’s savings. To be able to be in the position to do this is an immense privilege that I do not take lightly. Because I am from New Jersey I do not qualify for TAP, Pell, or the Excelsior Scholarship. In order to pay for textbooks, food, rent, and a MetroCard I have been working part-time every semester and full time during summer and winter breaks. I wish that I was able to qualify for these types of financial aid because it would take away the stress of a huge financial burden for me and my family. I would have more time to not worry about working and actually have moments for rest and passion projects.
I talk to students all the time, and the biggest barriers to education that I hear every day are always finances – CUNY is an institution built for working-class people, but the rising cost of tuition is making it less and less accessible. Every semester more and more of my friends have to drop out because they can no longer afford the cost of attendance. We need a free and fully funded CUNY so that every student has the opportunity to determine their own destiny, regardless of their financial status. The ability to pursue education is a human right and must be regarded as such. I wish that the state saw CUNY for the potential it has to be an engine of equity for all students, as well as an investment in the future of our economy and society as a whole.
I’m currently a senior studying Psychology at SUNY Cortland. After graduation, I am going to attend graduate school and then begin a career as a school psychologist. In order to pay for school, I rely upon my own financial resources. My mother helps me, but I only receive a small amount of financial aid. I do not receive any grant money, like TAP or Pell, and I do not qualify for support programs that may assist me financially. When it comes to costs like textbooks and college fees, I pay for it out of pocket. I work regularly at a daycare center to pay for my food costs.
I love college; I love its structure, which encourages me to do well in school. But college students struggle enough already, and SUNY schools should be fully funded because not every student can afford the costs of higher education and that’s something they shouldn’t have to worry about. The biggest challenge for me was the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s made my senior year very difficult to enjoy. Outside of that, some other challenges include having an inadequate adviser, who didn’t recommend the right things that I should be doing as far as my academics. I love SUNY Cortland and I want to see the right changes happen here even after I graduate.
I’m currently a junior studying Sociology at SUNY Cortland. After graduation, I hope to attend graduate school near home and to find a part-time job. I receive scholarship help like TAP and Pell Grants. I support myself financially, so I work during my summers and during the school year to pay for textbooks and to pay for my food costs because I don’t receive any support for food like SNAP.
I am very thankful as a first-generation student to be able to go to college. College is still expensive even with all these financial aid grants, but everyday I work hard to be a better person and make my parents proud, so at the end of the day everything is worth it.
If SUNY were fully-funded, then students could focus on classes. Financial stability for some students can be very stressful which can impact how they do in school. One of the biggest challenges was adjusting to the distance from Cortland to my hometown and fitting in, since Cortland does not have a very big Latin community.
I was raised in Hempstead, NY in Long Island, in a town that’s most talked about as “chaotic” and “helpless.” I was raised in a family of six, with two Latino parents who came into this country with a different vision for my sisters and me—to pursue much more in this life.
We lived in a basement, all six of us. It was deteriorating and we had no stove, no refrigerator. We starved together; we cried together. Every night, I saw how much I was losing weight, and I just let it happen because I used all my funds just so that my family can eat. Senior year of high school came, and we were still in the basement. I received 6 scholarships, and to be honest, I didn’t use them for me. I used them to feed my family.
I wasn’t psyched about the milestones like high school graduation, but then I applied for an on-spot admissions to Long Island University, to the HEOP Program. I sat with Directors who questioned my reasons for wanting to be in college, and I answered them: “I want to support my family.” I became an HEOP student, and I received academic and financial support. This brought tears of joy. Upon my return back to Hempstead, my parents hugged me and told me, ”We are proud of you” in Spanish.
In 2018, everyone in my family went our separate ways, due to the financial burdens we kept facing. I wasn’t ready for the leap. I kept this secret from my family, but I became homeless and had to sleep inside my co-worker’s car because I had no funds and nowhere to stay. Now, in 2019, I rent a room in Hempstead, and I visit my family.
I am now a SEEK student at Queens College and transferred from LIU Post with a 3.5 GPA. Because of HEOP and SEEK, I can almost give my family and myself the better life we desired for a long time. Because of these programs, I am able to advocate for the youth in Hempstead and tell them that no matter how hard the trials are back at home, an education will heal them. It’s because of programs like HEOP and SEEK that I’ve gained confidence and the voice to share my story. As a SEEK student now, I am proud to say that I receive all the help I need from the SEEK program in Queens College.
We all have a story to share, and I am not politicizing this issue. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am a human being that cares for all. Us students, who face immense poverty and some academic trails, need SEEK, HEOP, and EOP. Funding these programs will illuminate the lives of those who need support and help those who struggle and yet work multiple jobs, just to receive a degree.
Because of Queens College SEEK, I was able to share my story with you, and I thank you for your time. Please continue to fund these programs because the underrepresented need them.