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Ramona Shoy-Parker, Brooklyn College

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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

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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.

Maria Obmachkina, Hunter College

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I am studying psychology.  I receive the Pell Grant and TAP.  I had to drop chemistry because it was so hard and I ended up becoming part time that semester.  It disqualified me from TAP mid semester, which was really stressful.  Another semester, I dropped Russian and the same thing happened.  If I didn’t receive financial aid at all during college I would be in a lot of debt, probably have a mental breakdown. 

I work as a home attendant 20 hours a week.  I used to do tutoring.  I pay for food out of pocket.  I live with my grandma and we have SNAP.  When I first got into school it was hard to register for the courses I needed.  If college was free it would mobilize and expand people.  People would have more time.  It would help people in need that can barely survive.  Transportation is the biggest challenge for me as a student.  It takes me 2 hours each way.  Also mental health.  There needs to be better mental health services and services for non traditional students. 

 

 

Keith Thiyagarajah, New York City College of Technology

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I am a Sophomore studying Computer Engineering.  I am a part of  the ASAP program.  I work at a restaurant 30 hours a week.  I get an $875 voucher for textbooks and materials for school.  Some semesters I max out.  My job pays for food. 

It’s hard to balance work and school.  I sleep 2-3 hours.  ASAP gives me priority registration, that’s how I’m able to work 30 hours/week.  I can plan my class schedule around work. 

College should be free and available for everyone.  A lot of people want to go to college, but they can’t because they have to work to support their family and kids!  My biggest challenge is sleep and transportation.  There’s no parking near my school and the F train is always having problems.

Darina Kozoub, Hunter College

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I study Precolonial History.  I am a 4th year student receiving  a TAP award and the Pell Grant.  I work 30 hours a week as a home attendant.  Pell covers textbooks, metrocard and food.  I live with my mom so I don’t have to worry about rent.

It is stressful to work and be in school.  I wouldn’t be in school if I didn’t receive financial aid.  I’d be working.  I am not graduating on time, I have to stay an extra year and will run out of TAP.  It stresses me out a lot I don’t know what I’m going to do.  It’s really messed up that in order to receive TAP I’ve been forced to be full time.  It’s a lot of work, I can’t handle it.  The workload from five classes is a lot.  Paper after paper.  12 credits is considered full time but you can’t graduate on time. 

Most people I know don’t graduate in 4 years.  The hardest part about being a student is balancing work and finances, it effects my mental health.  We need better mental health services!  Food is super expensive too, especially at Hunter which is on the Upper East Side. Who can afford to spend $10 a day on food? It’d be great if there was an affordable option for students.

Avalann Bargallo, Buffalo State College

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I was raised in a single parent household with my two sisters. My mom worked full time to support us all. She didn’t get the opportunity to go to college but wanted better for me and my sisters. No one in my family has finished a four year degree yet and that is mainly because of the financial burden.

I am a full time student enrolled in the EOP program and do receive financial aid, but that covers tuition. I still have multiple loans in my name I had to take out and have worked 1-2 jobs during the school years to pay for living expenses such as books, food, my car, and most recently off campus rent because seniors aren’t allowed to live on campus anymore. I would love to just focus on school but that’s not possible.

I am worried about paying back those students loans and possibly wanting to further my education because of the costs. Investing in higher education will greatly improve the future students of New York.

Monica Ortiz, SUNY Purchase

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I am a pre-law student.  I have always received tuition assistance through FAFSA, New York State TAP, and/or merit scholarships. English is my third language. I am first generation American, both of my parents came from Paraguay.  

I’m a single parent, I have a five-year old. I work part-time for a litigation attorney in White Plains. Now that I’m newly divorced, it results in an increase in money I get from FAFSA and the state.

I already qualify for financial aid through TAP, so I didn’t have to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship.

 

 

Nicole Vasquez, Hunter College

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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.

Tyrell Lewis, Bronx Community College

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I was a General Education major at Bronx Community College. I wasn’t able to graduate and needed to get a full time job. I couldn’t do both. I had participated in the workstudy program but I wasn’t making enough. I had to pay rent, food, cable, and utilities. I was awarded a partial Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award and the Pell Grant.

I found out about ASAP too late, but if I had known about it, I would have applied to it for the tutoring to bring my grades up! I wanted it for the tutoring. Everyone should have ASAP. While I was at BCC I received SNAP assistance. The transition from high school to college was really horrible. Textbooks were the biggest cost. I couldn’t keep up with my studies because I couldn’t afford the materials, and this is when I was receiving TAP and Pell. Pell helped for some but I also had to pay for all of my living expenses it was way too much.

Stephanie Almodovar, City College of NY

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My name is Stephanie Almodovar and I am a freshman at CUNY City College. I am currently looking to go into Civil Engineering. Right now, I work as a group leader at a local YMCA and this job allows me to save a little for school. Unfortunately, I do not receive Pell Grants and I do not qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship because my mother’s income is just above the cut off level. Often times I struggle with paying tuition and buying the necessary textbooks for school.

I do not qualify for work-study so most weeks I have to choose between saving money towards school or buying lunch. I usually only eat lunch 2-3 times a week but sometimes that’s too much because buying snacks will deplete my savings and I would not be able to eat for the rest of that week. Thankfully, with the help of outside scholarships, I am now able to pay tuition without worry. However, at any time, that could change. I try my hardest to not let these troubles overcome my college experience but sometimes it all becomes too much. In all honesty, I dream of tuition-free CUNY so that one day I will no longer have to worry about paying for school and just enjoy learning.