I am a student at Brooklyn College. I use public transportation to get to school and it is always late and sometimes the machine to refill my pass is broken. During finals week, I was 10-15 minutes late. The bus is always late. It would take forever at stops, and I even woke up early. Two buses even passed me and didn’t stop at all. If metrocards were even a little cheaper, like $60 or $70 instead of $120, the savings would add up annually. It would be one less stress to think about.
Starting this year, I have to pay off my last year in tuition for undergrad. I know many students in the same predicament as me find it very hard to balance work and school, and managing living without financial support from parents has been incredibly tough. The burden of having student loans while actively trying to live on your own, go to school full time and work full time is draining and extremely hard. My mental health and physical health have deteriorated, the loans are equivalent to a looming shadow that encompasses all aspects of my health. My jobs entail working at a physical therapy clinic as an aide, as well as, as a security/front desk receptionist for Shore View Nursing and Rehabilitation; these jobs are very demanding and require a lot of energy. If I were to lose any of my jobs I would end up homeless, unable to pay my student loans, and would probably fail or drop my classes. Having to choose whether you can get an education or have enough food to eat shouldn’t be a problem in our country and it disappoints me that we cannot do more to fix such issues. I think we should fight against this unfairness and allow students to focus more on achieving their goals in education rather than burdening them with debt. Even if I do not reap the benefits of student loan forgiveness, I hope that my impact makes a change for the coming generations.
I am in my third year at BMCC. I am graduating this semester and I am transferring to Brooklyn College to pursue a BA in Political Science. As of right now, I have financial aid to pay for the costs of college. I was nervous about this semester because I am a part time student and I didn’t know how I would pay for college without TAP. When TAP eligibility was expanded to part time students it really helped me. When I transfer to Brooklyn College, I will have to pay more for the cost of school because my financial aid won’t cover it all. I am currently working and when I transfer I will be a full time student and I am expecting a heavier workload. I will have to balance being a full time student while working 30 hours a week. Even now, as a part time student I feel like I have to pick between focusing on work to pay my expenses and focusing on school. If we had a New Deal 4 CUNY, I would be able to use the money that I am making at work for actual living expenses, not college. I wouldn’t have to work as many hours and I could focus on school. It is especially difficult now with inflation and the pandemic, because students are struggling with food, rent and education. This plays into mental health and stress. There are not many resources on campus to help with students’ mental health. My current advisors and counselors seem like they have too many students to care about me when I am in a meeting with them.
I am a senior at BMCC and I am majoring in Business Management. I am planning on continuing my education at a four year college to get my bachelor’s degree. I live with my parents, but they can’t afford to pay for my college expenses. So I have to take out loans in order to pay for my education. I take out subsidized loans through FASFA. It covers all of my school expenses but it doesn’t cover my textbooks, transportation, or food. Also, I have to help support my family, so I have to work two jobs to afford other expenses. This makes it difficult for me to concentrate on my education. In order to graduate I needed to take a certain class that wasn’t offered my last semester. This forced me to take out more loans because I had to go to school for an extra semester. I am really worried about paying these loans back in the future. I wish they would make college free for everyone, so I wouldn’t have to be so overwhelmed about paying for my education.
I am a graduate student at Hunter College majoring in Computer Science. During my undergraduate and masters, I received no assistance paying for tuition. This is extremely difficult when taking summer classes where 2 courses alone can cost up to $3000. I have not taken out any loans yet as I work and my parents pay out of pocket but I might have to for the remaining of my masters. Increased CUNY funding and more financial support for graduate students would help alleviate the financial burden I am facing.
I am a senior at Hunter College. I pay for school through financial aid but sometimes it does not cover my full expenses. To help cover them, I work a part-time job. I do not receive TAP but I wish the amount of paperwork for TAP was not so stressful. It takes a long time to complete the form and the requirements to quality are very narrow. My biggest challenges in college have been waiting for the elevators and trying to schedule appointments with my advisors. The elevators take an extremely long time to come and when they do come, they are typically crowded. In addition to this stress, navigating the world of advisors was also challenging. To get in touch with advisors, it takes about 3 weeks. By increasing CUNY funding, we would be able to hire more advisors who can respond quicker.
I am a sophomore at Queens College, majoring in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. After college, I would like to be an elementary school teacher in New York City or another part of the state. I am involved in the community as I volunteer to feed the homeless and tutor children in an afterschool program.
Not too long ago, I was in a darker place, however. During the pandemic I transferred from the Von College of Aeronautics and Technology. Many professors at this institution assume that incoming freshmen are proficient in math to a certain level, regardless of their educational background. This model didn’t work for me, as I struggled with math in high school. As a result, I had a nervous breakdown when faced with tough physics and math classes in college. I experienced intense anxiety and insomnia, and couldn’t see an end in sight. Eventually I decided to transfer to Queens College. This entailed hefty paperwork and planning. I knew this was the right decision for me, but it was extremely difficult to put myself together while breaking apart every day from mental health issues.
At this time, I also felt restricted by my parents and by circumstance. As a first generation college student, it is hard for my parents to understand what I go through in college. They are also cautious about my safety, which made it hard for me to make friends and explore the city during high school. My parents are paying out of pocket for my college education, which I am grateful for. At the same time, it comes with a tradeoff of sacrificing my freedom for my education.
Upon transferring to Queens College, things started to look a bit brighter. I immediately met with my advisor at QC, who is a friendly and warm individual. She guided me to the best courses for me and in the right sequence. I also applied for a job at a local after school tutoring program at this time. Now I serve as a counselor and tutor for middle school students. I love my job and it is the driving force that keeps me focused on my schoolwork. My job also gives me more financial independence from my parents, so that I can cover some of my expenses. With my earnings, I ride public transportation around the city. Riding buses and the subway makes me feel like I have more freedom. At QC my job, my advisor, and my major have made a world of difference in my life.
Although my life has turned around over the past year or so, the public higher education system still needs improvement. For instance, institutions should offer more mental health and tutoring services for students struggling with courses and all students should have access to helpful advisors. We need more funding for higher education to bring these essential services to students.
I am a first year student at Nassau Community College. Currently, I am studying Liberal Arts, but my goal is to switch to IT. I am paying for school both with unsubsidized loans and out of pocket. However, I am an out-of-state student, so the tuition is double for me. My mom and I are splitting the remaining balance after loans half and half. At first, she was paying it all, but then I got a job and offered to help out.
Paying for school is far more expensive than I thought, and it’s a challenge working and going to school at the same time. Pretty much all the money I’m making is being dedicated to school. That’s why I try to make sure I’m doing well in school; because the money that my mother and I are spending would go to waste if I don’t.
I am a full time student and work almost full time – about 30 hours a week. It takes a lot of discipline and focus to make sure I can still do well in school while balancing all the hours at work. When I first started working, I thought I would only be working 20 hours a week, but I needed to increase my hours to help pay for school. If I had the option, I would only work 20 hours, so that I could spend my time doing readings for class and getting a really good handle on the material. Balancing school, work, sleep, and personal time is definitely not easy, but with a lot of dedication and determination, it’s manageable.
Being at a commuter school in a suburban area makes transportation hard too. Depending on the day of the week, I either borrow my cousin’s car, someone drops me off at school, or I get an Uber. However, I uber more than anything else. I usually spend about $60 a week on Ubers, but the real money issue is tuition.
MY name is Sabrina Maharaj and it is my fourth year studying at BMCC. My major is business management and when I graduate BMCC my goal is to work for a business firm. I pay for college through the DISCOVERY program and TAP assistance. My first year of college I had to pay for my tuition out of pocket because I didn’t fill out the correct financial aid forms in time. Because of the confusing and overwhelming forms to fill out for financial aid, my brother had to pay for my tuition out of pocket for me that semester.
Since receiving financial aid, the DISCOVERY program has been very helpful for me to help cover the costs of college. It helps pay for most costs associated with college, except I still have to pay for my transportation costs. I would not be able to afford college if it were not for the DISCOVERY and TAP programs that help me cover the costs. I would have had to get a full time job and I know from experience that juggling both a job and classes makes both very difficult.
Even though I receive financial aid I still did get a job to help my parents pay for the mortgage and other household bills. I would not have been able to afford tuition while also helping my parents out. In 2018 I got a job at the airport as a cashier at a travel sales store. I was waking up at 3:30 in the morning to catch the bus to JFK for my 6am shift. I worked 4 times a week, working 36 hours weekly. Eventually, I had to take a break from classes because it was too much doing both work and school at the same time. During COVID my job laid me off and then they would not rehire me because they found out I was back at school. This makes it very difficult to help pay for costs of living and help my parents with the bills. Tuition needs to be free and there needs to be more financial assistance to college students and their families.
Leslie Spinosa is a first-year student at Pratt Institute. Although apprehensive about the remote learning option offered to her after committing to Pratt, Leslie felt somewhat obligated to accept the offer in fear of losing her presidential merit scholarship or loans in the future. Leslie was accepted into Pratt in Spring of 2020, right before COVID-19 had kicked into high gear. Given her family’s financial security at the time, she felt confident in committing to the institute with reliance on her presidential merit scholarship, student loans, and federal work study allotment. However, that security was compromised in the wake of COVID-19, as her father was out of work as a car dealer for months. Mr. Spinosa applied for a pell grant to provide his family some relief, however it never followed through. Now, he is back at his job, however business is slow and school has become harder to pay for as a result. Leslie has taken on a job of her own to help out, however, with the especially chaotic schedule of online school, she has not been able to take on enough work hours to generate a significant income. Not being able to work on campus to acquire her federal work study money has been a major loss. Additionally, Leslie’s family income was higher at the time of applying for the FAFSA, resulting in a lower grant which, in light of her current financial situation, has left her to rely heavily on loans. Further, Leslie has dealt with her fair share of basic struggles with the new remote learning system. She often finds it difficult to count on consistent communication with her professors, and has had a particularly hard time getting her questions answered by her financial aid advisor, leaving her in the dark about where she stands with the school. Despite all of this, Leslie has worked exceptionally hard to make it through the semester thus far, and will continue to push forward through these trying circumstances. Leslie sees the great value and necessity in acquiring her college degree, and hopes Pratt will provide her with the technical skills and connections to launch her post-graduate career.
I attend The Borough of Manhattan Community College. I was paying for college through financial aid and the College Discovery program. I wasn’t one of the smartest or most focused students, so it has been challenging because I was required to keep up a certain GPA to keep my financial aid.
I started my years at BMCC as an Early Childhood Education major, but I was in the process of changing my major to go into social work. I have loans, I’m a little worried. I have been in BMCC for some time now and I fear that my financial aid will be finished before I complete my courses. And then even more after that. Financial aid has been very helpful with paying for my classes, but towards the end of every semester, it was hard to buy food because I was in the school for the whole day and also having to pay for my train and bus rides to and from class every single day was hard
At the beginning of my 2019 semester, I got a job and it was helping me a little bit, but for me to get a decent paycheck, I would have to work long hours which distracted me from being able to focus on my school work which has further delayed my education. I do not personally pay for rent, my mother does, and I felt bad that she had to do it all on her own, so I was trying tirelessly for about 2 years to look for a job to help support her a little bit on top of paying for food and transportation.
Getting a degree for me would mean everything. Every day I have people asking me, “Are you in school?”, “When are you finishing school?” etc. I’m just tired of delaying the process. It would also mean a lot to my mom. I would be the first one in my family to go and to complete college. I want to give my mom a better life and myself as well and it would give me a chance to make a difference in the world.