Posts Tagged ‘opportunity program’

Ankush Gaba, Queensborough Community College

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.

Sarah Russo, Hunter College

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.

Ashmani Appu, Hunter College

I am a freshman at Hunter College currently studying Biology. After college, I plan on going to medical school to further my education. I do not pay for school on my own, I receive financial aid. I receive TAP, Pell, and am a part of the SEEK opportunity program. I pay for my textbooks with the money I receive from Seek. I do not work but am trying to find a job to help support my family with money. I do not receive SNAP or work-study and pay for food with my SEEK checks and other financial aid. If I did not receive financial aid, I would have to resort to taking out a loan or finding a job so that I can make my own money. I am somewhat concerned about graduating on time, because I might not be able to complete all of my prerequisites for my major in time.

We need a fully-funded CUNY for low-income students who are not in any opportunity programs like SEEK or EOP and have to depend on other means such as working or work-study to pay for college. Many students could benefit from increased investment. Too many students have to rely on balancing jobs, school, and loans.

Lauren Jones, SUNY ESF

I chose to attend SUNY ESF for a few different reasons, the biggest being cost. My father is a doctor, and he is still paying off the loans that he took out to go to medical school three decades later. I didn’t want to end up in a similar situation as him, being forced into debt for the rest of my life. But even at a SUNY school, it keeps getting more expensive to be a student. Our dorms are almost three times as much as tuition, and we are forced to live in them for our first year. Tuition is increasing, but there have been constant cuts to programs and opportunities that the school can provide for us. 

I’m studying environmental science, and our textbooks cost so much! I don’t know how New York expects students like me to get our degrees while having so many extra costs. I was fortunate enough to receive an academic scholarship to ESF so I can avoid taking out loans or relying on my parents. This means that I need to dedicate extra time to my studies to keep the scholarship, which makes being able to get a part-time job very hard. I chose ESF to avoid going into debt, but with tuition hikes, living expenses, and the additional fees and materials I need to pay for, I don’t know if that is possible.

Stefani Rodriguez, Borough of Manhattan Community College

I am majoring in Liberal Arts at BMCC and this is my second year at the school. I have taken an interest in business and accounting and after I graduate I plan on pursuing an internship in those fields.

I am one of the many CUNY students who heavily relies on TAP and the Pell Grant to pay for school. I was also a part of BMCC’s College Discovery program which helped me pay for my textbooks. To provide for myself and assist my family, I work a part time job. My biggest challenge as a CUNY student has been not being able to make use of the resources we have, such as tutoring, because my work schedule would not allow it. My financial struggles have made it quite difficult to graduate on time.

As a working class student, I live with the fact that if it were not for federal assistance I would not be pursuing a college degree right now. Education is not a privilege, it is a right. If people are required to have a degree to make a decent living then education should be more accessible. Most CUNY students are working class students. CUNY deserves better funding so it can continue to provide, improve, and expand services like the childcare center. We deserve the right to an education and better future.

Etaghene Oweh, College of Staten Island

I’m a second year student majoring in business administration, with the goal of getting my master’s in business administration after graduating. I came back to school so that I could gain the knowledge I need to eventually make more money for my family and be self-employed.

I have kids, and it’s not easy to go to college while working and raising a family at the same time. I’m trying hard, but it’s definitely not easy. The support that programs like TAP and ASAP provides allows me to attend school and invest in the future. At the same time, I work as a Direct Support Professional at a group home. Without financial aid, I don’t know if I could afford to go to school, and if I did, I would probably only be able to do like four credits per semester.

In general, I wish that the system were clearer and that CUNY publicized its services more. I might have used the child care center, but I don’t know anything about it or who to ask. A lot of things are not well publicized, especially when you’re coming back to school after a period of working and need to adjust. The ASAP program advisors are helpful, but I know some people who were severely set back by incorrect information from advising.

We need to make CUNY free so more people can get a quality education, and we need to make sure that people are able to access its services.

Jacqueline Escobar, Queens College

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.

Alexis Pillot, SUNY New Paltz

I am a senior at SUNY New Paltz majoring in communication disorders with a minor in deaf studies. After college, I intend on pursuing a career as an audiologist. I am currently employed as a cashier at the Student Union Building, and I also do catering for on-campus events.

Working on campus is the only way I can ensure that I will stay enrolled in school. I have always had to work in order to manage my expenses, especially school fees that were mandatory for me to pay out-of-pocket in order to stay in school. I have come really close to being kicked out of school because my financial aid was not enough to cover all of the costs. Thankfully, I was able to use the money I received from my campus jobs to pay off any remaining amounts.

I receive both TAP and Pell Grants, but that is not enough. I had to increase my unsubsidized loans for it to cover tuition and room and board. I could only get approval to increase my unsubsidized loan if my Parent Plus loan was denied.

I am an Educational Opportunity Student (EOP), and this program has helped me cover the majority of the costs for school. Without EOP, I’m not sure if I would still be in college. This program has been a great help for me from the beginning.

Felix Santos, SUNY New Paltz

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.

Maliha Khan, City College of NY

I’m a junior majoring in international studies, and I’m minoring in English and Economics. After graduation, I would love to work with a nonprofit organization and hopefully one day I will be able to work with the UN!

I receive TAP and the Pell grant. I’m part of SEEK, which has helped me tremendously because they have provided me with a very helpful advisor, financial help, and an amazing environment for me to be in. I use the money that I get as a refund after my tuition to pay transportation, food, and books.

I’m currently looking for a part-time job and an internship with a nonprofit organization, but because of my busy schedule at school, it’s very difficult. I’ve also applied for federal work-study, but because financial aid covers my tuition, my application isn’t a priority.

I would appreciate a child care center on campus because I have many classmates that bring their children into the classes, and although they don’t often disrupt the class, they are a distraction to their moms because they have to pay attention to the children instead of paying attention to the class.

Time management has been my biggest challenge at a CUNY student.  I’m very concerned about graduating on time because I have changed majors. It has become very stressful because I am taking six classes next semester. If I didn’t receive financial aid, my parents would have to take out loans to help pay for tuition which would be really hard because I would have to work in order to support myself as well.

We need a fully funded CUNY because many plan on pursuing a master’s or a doctorate degree after college, and if students no longer had to worry about paying for their bachelor’s degree, they could save for furthering their educations. Also, it becomes very hard for a student to maintain a high GPA if they have to work to pay for their tuition, books, and food.