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 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.
Randy is a sophomore at the City College of New York pursuing a degree in Anthropology. He is particularly interested in medical anthropology and he hopes to attend a nursing school after graduation. Although his financial aid covers his tuition, other factors of pursuing a college degree stand in his way. One thing is the lack of mental health resources on campus. Being a full time student, it is easy to get stressed or burnt out. CCNY does not have enough counselors to accommodate all students and it’s hard to find an appointment when you need it the most. Randy hopes that with more funding for CUNY we can provide the proper mental health resources for students.
My name is Sabah Ahsan and I am a junior, Urban Studies and Political Science double major at Queens College, City University of New York. After graduating, I plan to pursue a Master’s of Public Administration (MPA), and work for a municipal agency in New York City or State. I originally became interested in an MPA in my Urban Studies classes. In these courses I learned how insufficient some social services are in the United States. I would like to improve these systems so that more people have a social safety net to rely on and have opportunities for upward mobility. I’m grateful for my professors and advisors at Queen College, who have guided me to my career path. That being said, there are facets of my college experience, and CUNY more broadly, that have room for improvement.
I’ve had a positive college experience at Queens College, but I have a few challenges. I am a recipient of the Macaulay Honors Full Ride Scholarship, which covers tuition, textbooks, and provides me with a laptop. I also have an advisor through the Macaulay program, and It has been nice to have one-on-one academic guidance. Personally, my main struggle is maintaining the high GPA requirement for my scholarship. To continue to be eligible for the scholarship, I must earn a 3.5 GPA or higher every semester. I wouldn’t be able to attend college without my scholarship, so it is stressful for me, especially juggling my coursework, extracurriculars, and an internship. While my college experience has been mostly positive, my scholarship does put additional pressure on me.
Outside of myself, I can see ways in which Queens College and the CUNY System could be better. For example, in this coming semester, the Urban Studies department is offering all in person classes. I’ve noticed that throughout the pandemic, in-person classes are less likely to be filled than the online classes. This is a challenge for adjunct professors, as their jobs are dependent upon students taking their classes. It would be better if it were up to the discretion of the professor whether or not the class was in-person or online, or if we had additional funding for Covid safety measures. Overall, CUNY’s response to the pandemic could have been better.
To solve issues of the pandemic response, and the stressors of the Macaulay Scholarship, CUNY needs more state funding. Since we are largely a commuter school, most students live with their parents, and many are wary of exposing the older generation to COVID-19. More students would feel comfortable coming to campus if there was a weekly testing program for all students. Additionally, CUNY has been cutting the amount of tenure track faculty, and instead replaces them with adjunct positions. Adjunct faculty lack the job security and have lower salaries than the full time faculty. CUNY needs more funding in the state budget to treat our professors right. Lastly, CUNY needs more funding for mental health resources for students. Students face many stressors in college, such as for me, maintaining the high GPA requirement for my scholarship. Currently, the counselors at Queens College can only see students for free for a few sessions, until the student needs to pay out of pocket. This makes counseling at QC inaccessible for many students. Therefore, we need more state funding for CUNY to help with the pandemic response, treat our faculty fairly, and to provide more mental health resources for students.
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.
My major is criminal justice. My career aspirations are mostly getting to help others through my work as not just a police officer but a homicide detective. I haven’t taken out a loan to pay for school and I am not currently employed. I expect to graduate from BMCC in the year of 2021, however with the current pandemic we are dealing with I’m afraid I will not graduate in time. I am struggling a little even if I have an advisor because of the way things are right now and the general situation.
Mental health care is highly important for times such as this, where the majority of people are being negatively affected. I personally never needed any help, however when it comes to assignments and due dates it is quite stressful having to complete school work at the same time. I did not receive any financial aid, so besides school expenses, I had to pay for transportation.
My biggest academic goal is to pass my quizzes by improving my time management. There were times where I had to buy some textbooks, the most expensive I bought was used but still paid in the 150-200 dollars range. Unfortunately, the school frequently has malfunctions with the elevators escalators but they are repaired somewhat quickly and are working normally.
A fully funded school can be seen as many different things. I personally don’t know what it will turn out to look like. It’s only been my first semester in college but, hopefully, it will look nicer and safe for everybody.
I am majoring in business administration at BMCC. After my graduation I would really like to start my career as a creative director: I have always been a creative person, and being able to express it by visually representing a product that will be sold is something that really inspires me in pursuing my career. During my two years at BMCC I have been participating in some of the amazing programs they offer that really helped me and helped a lot of other students as well.
In particular, I will always be grateful for programs like the ASAP Leadership Program, where I made a lot of friends that have been a fundamental piece in my academic and personal growth. This program has also been able to help out less fortunate people. It is important to keep these activities open for students, because helping others while perfecting your abilities is an opportunity that more people should have. Before starting college, my goal was to achieve a high GPA and to find my dream career. Two years later, and after changing my major a few times, I am finally going to transfer to a four-year college with a GPA of 3.8.
I am still working hard to have a career that will make me satisfied in the future. Everything I have done during these semesters allowed me to graduate on time: in May 2020, I will finally get my associate degree. However, I would appreciate it if some services on campus were improved: I have been late for classes multiple times because elevators were not working; in some of my classes there were not enough seats for all the students or not enough paper in the bathroom. It is also important to hire more staff for mental health services, which counts only two therapists that have to work for thousands of students. The BMCC campus is great, but it could be improved by adjusting all the existing services they offer. I really hope that every other student after me will have the opportunity of being in an environment that makes them feel like home, where the bad sides of our college will be finally solved and the good sides will become even better.
I’m a senior at the City College of New York studying Political Behavior & Analysis, a major that I designed with the help of a faculty mentor through the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique & Interdisciplinary Studies Program. I’m hoping to graduate in the upcoming Fall 2020 semester. I also have Tourette Syndrome, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD.
Throughout my entire academic career, I’ve paid my tuition during the last month of the semester because I’m unable to get any financial aid at all and pay entirely out of pocket. In addition, I’ve been struggling with my anxiety and ADHD for a long time, not to mention personal and domestic issues. All of these problems have impacted me, making it difficult to stay positive, focused and productive at school, work, and home. Because of this, I started seeking help.
Throughout my time at Bronx Community College, where I graduated from in Fall 2018, I was able to see a mental health counselor on campus without any limit. Upon transferring to CCNY, I was limited to only 6 appointments with a CCNY mental health counselor. In Fall 2019, I was told that I maxed out my appointment limit, so they gave me a list of off-campus referrals. Only one of the referred clinics took my health insurance, so I went there in early October. A month after my intake appointment, I was told by the clinic that the earliest I’d be able to get my first appointment with a psychologist would be the middle of December. I was already falling behind in my classes and didn’t have time to wait. I went to see a psychiatrist to get medication for my anxiety and ADHD and talked to most of my professors about the mental health issues I was struggling with throughout the semester. I have yet to find a readily available mental health professional, but I have no choice but to keep pushing myself and stay positive and healthy while at it if I want to graduate on time.
Mental health IS health. Lack of access to proper mental health support puts poor and marginalized students like me in an even worse mental state than before, and can severely affect the ability to emotionally function and stay happy & productive lives. CUNY’s proposed student health & wellness fee to fund mental health counseling services is not only burdensome for disadvantaged students but is also merely a band-aid solution.
To make sure students get the help they need from campus mental health services, there should be: (1) unlimited appointments and individualized counseling for students until they graduate, (2) more counselors and expand student wellness offices, and (3) on-campus psychological diagnosis & testing for mental health disorders and learning disabilities. The state must fund these programs so that all students have a fair shot at an education.
I am a junior at SUNY New Paltz, studying sociology with a concentration in criminology and a minor in communications. On campus I have been a student assistant at the Sweets N’ Treats bakery and a student chef at Peregrine Dining Hall. Working at these locations provided help with finances and helped me buy food because after a while campus food gets old. Working on campus also helped me pay off the money that I owed to the school because financial aid couldn’t cover all of my tuition and fees even though I receive the maximum amount for the TAP and Pell Grants.
I am very grateful to be a part of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). EOP has helped me in tons of ways. First, in terms of financial aid, they provide up to $1,400 towards financial aid. Although it does help, it still did not cover all of my financial needs for the semesters. Sometimes towards the end, the program receives leftover money from schools in order to help fund the missing amount from a student’s financial aid.
EOP has helped guide me through the criteria of college by giving me an idea of what to expect from classes, especially since it was a big transition from high school. EOP has also helped me in the process of deciding what major was best for me, and the program provided connections in order for me to succeed. Those resources are even there for me when the semester hits and anxiety and stress takes over my body.
I have been facing problems with financial aid since I started school. I was never told that the amount of financial aid you receive depends on the amount of credits you earn in a year. One semester during freshman year I took 12 credits instead of 15, and you need 30 credits to be considered a sophomore. At the beginning of my sophomore semester, I had to take about a thousand dollars out-of-pocket in order to pay off the school since my financial aid didn’t cover all of my bill. And with loans, I’m not allowed to take out a certain amount of money because I didn’t qualify to be a sophomore that year. I was too scared to take out another loan (the Parent Plus loan).
It’s really hard to pay that amount because $1,000 isn’t pocket change, especially since I come from a family that relies on an insignificant income. I had to rely on the funds that I earned from working at the on-campus job that I had. This year I was faced with taking out the Parent Plus loan, and I ended up doing it. A lot of my friends dropped out because they couldn’t pay the amount that they owed to the school.