Posts Tagged ‘opportunity program’

Ismael Ali, Hunter College

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I am a junior at Hunter College majoring in Political Science with a minor in Black Studies. I am also the first person in my family to go to college. Right now, my main priority is to graduate as soon as possible so I can get a job to provide for my family and pay my student loans.

I was first a college student at SUNY New Paltz where I was part of the Education Opportunity Program (EOP). One of my main challenges at New Paltz was the price of textbooks. Even though I was working two on-campus jobs, I found myself spending two thirds of my paycheck towards textbooks. I addressed the issue to my EOP advisor, who cared and loved me like their own, and they were able to help me with an EOP book voucher. This voucher helped me to pay for the rest of my school supplies. The downside is that this book voucher is limited. I know that I am one of so many students who struggle with textbook costs.

In the Fall of 2018, I transferred to Hunter College. The first thing that comes to mind when people ask me why I transferred is the fact that the cost of tuition at SUNY New Paltz was overwhelming. As a full-time college student, it was impossible for me to get a job that would cover my tuition so every semester I had to take out loans.  

Like EOP, Search for Education Elevation and Knowledge Program (SEEK) helps me with my textbooks and provides me with an advisor. Thanks to the SEEK Program, my transition from New Paltz to Hunter College was very smooth. This is why we need true leadership from our representatives to defend and expand opportunity programs.

Michael D’Amato, Brooklyn College

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I am the first in my family to go to college, thanks to the help of a partial TAP award, the Pell Grant the SEEK program and now the Excelsior Scholarship. I am a transfer student, attending Brooklyn College to obtain my Bachelors of Science in Psychology. My father had also lost his job two years ago, so my financial aid situation has fluctuated each year based on how much he makes.

Overall, I am  able to go to school and be the first in my family to graduate college, so I am very thankful that the scholarship has helped with that. The idea of living in New York after graduation is not a problem. The idea of taking 30 credits by the end of the year, however, is.

12 credits a semester is already a lot. I am currently only taking 12 credits this semester, through the SEEK program, which I have been a part of since attending Kingsborough Community College. 

 Without the Scholarship or any financial aid, I would have paid out of pocket since my family is against the idea of taking out loans. The most stressful cost for me right now is my metro card.


Kevon Pile, SUNY Cortland

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I am a senior in the criminology program and an aspiring law school candidate.  My education would not have been possible without taking on a substantial amount of student loan debt. I am frightened when it comes to paying back my loans.

My loans cover tuition costs, and that’s it. I have to pay for cost-of-living expense such as rent, food, and transportation out of pocket. I participate in the work-study program and am enrolled in the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP). Investing in higher education will allow students like me the opportunity to grow as individuals, and ultimately positively affect the great state of New York.


Roman Mendez, Bronx Community College

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I have received help through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Pell Grant. This federal and state assistance has helped me go to school and not have to worrying about paying for it. After taking a long break and working many jobs, I decided to go back to school. I realize that Pell and TAP don’t last forever. This semester (Spring 2017) has been a struggle because I didn’t receive full financial aid. I was able to save money and got loads of help from my parents. Because of this, I was able to meet the payments needed to pay half my tuition, books, Metrocard, and food.

I do appreciate the people that have to work full time and go to school because I know it is not easy. Paying for school made me realize how important programs are for many students such as SEEK, ASAP, and EOP because they help you get to where you need to go.  If it wasn’t for half the help from Pell, TAP and my parents, I wouldn’t be able to complete this semester.  I do wish free tuition in NY State had more support for part-time and undocumented students. Being a full time student and working full time is really stressful and leaves little to no time to actually study for the classes you are taking.

Santana Alvarado, Bronx Community College

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My first two semesters at Bronx Community College, I didn’t qualify for financial aid, even though my family lives on only my mother’s income and there are five of us at home with two of my siblings away for college. But, then I enrolled in the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which has been a blessing for me.  The cost of textbooks and a MetroCard is just too much, especially when multiple people are in college at the same time. I remember I was on my way to the financial aid office with the loan application form for Spring 2017 filled out, when I stopped to ask my ASAP advisor a question. I brought up taking out a loan, but she told me that because I qualified for partial Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding, ASAP would cover the rest. I texted my mom in the office that I had great news. After I spoke to her I felt like I was going to burst out in tears because I was so relieved and blessed, like I had been stopped on my way to making a deal with the devil.

College is a time to be challenged but paying for it shouldn’t be the main stressor. At times, it consumes my thoughts and leaves with me with an anxiety about my education and future, when I want to focus on the hope and excitement of earning a degree. There needs to be a change so that the burden of student debt can be lifted from students. We’re the future, after all.

Nelson, SUNY New Paltz

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I enrolled myself in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and basically, it looks at the amount of money my parents make in a year and based on that, it allows me to apply for special grants and pays off my entire tuition. It also supplies each student with money to buy textbooks each semester. Textbooks are pretty expensive and most times I wouldn’t be able to afford them without the EOP program. Also, the program provides a library of books that we can borrow from instead of buying and anyone is allowed to donate to this library. If it wasn’t for EOP, I definitely wouldn’t be in school, hands down. I wouldn’t be able to afford it at all and even if I was able to afford it, I wouldn’t be able to do it without my EOP tutors, counselors, directors and all their support.

After moving off campus, I found myself struggling a lot with affording food. I didn’t realize how hard that would be. I also found myself struggling to pay for my phone bill and other necessities. There are times where I wasn’t able to pay and I wouldn’t be able to use my phone to hear back from programs or jobs I was applying to. I’ve had to take on two jobs during my time at school. It’s kinda hard to balance work and school at the same time.

Alexis Ramos, Borough of Manhattan Community College

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I am majoring in political science and theater, and aim to be a senator or mayor. I believe tuition and other costs to attend CUNY and SUNY schools should be state funded. I started college right after getting my GED. When I started to look into schools, I was worried I couldn’t afford it.  A huge obstacle was figuring out where my 2 year old son would go while I was in school. My mother was too old and sick to take care of him and I didn’t have any other family members around me so I felt stuck. My only option was to look for daycare but the prices were way too expensive. I felt like I would be drowning in debt and costs of tuition and childcare. I enrolled at BMCC since it had a childcare center. I decided to do 5 courses in order to qualify for full financial aid.

Luckily, because of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), the Pell Grant, and the publicly funded childcare center at BMCC, I was able to afford to attend college. Textbooks and my monthly metrocard were a huge burden for me this year, though.  Luckily I’ve enrolled in Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for next year so those costs will be covered. I have a part time job that covers these costs currently, but between textbooks, metrocards, and paying for diapers and food for my son, I often can’t afford to buy food for myself. I’m determined to get an education, failure is not an option but it’s come at a cost to my health.

Abdullah Huda, Hunter College

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Throughout my college career, I have received financial assistance through the Pell grant and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The assistance was a huge help for me because without it, I would not have been able to go to college. My father is the only person who works full time in my family. He barely makes enough money to pay for all the expenses of providing for a five-member family. I attended college full time while working part time to help take some of the burden off his shoulder, and at the same time pay for my own expenses such as books, metrocards, and food. However, work would sometimes get in the way of my studies. There were many times when I had to choose between studying for an important exam and going to work because I needed the money. While the assistance of Pell grant and TAP has been extremely helpful, I still struggle financially.

I realized, although too late, that there were other programs offered in college to help students with their everyday expenses; programs like ASAP and SEEK.  I wasn’t informed about these programs in high school or in my first semester of college. When I learned about them and went to the financial aid office in my second semester of college, I was told it was too late for me to be eligible for the programs. If I had the assistance that educational opportunity programs provide, I could focus more on my studies and less on working to pay for expenses. This would have made a huge difference in my academic life.

Marie Ceant, Brooklyn College

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As a member of SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge, a CUNY Educational Opportunity program), I have received full financial aid since the beginning of my college career. I live with a widowed mother who has always worked extremely hard to get me to where I am today.  Without the SEEK program I would not have been blessed with this opportunity to be a college student. SEEK has provided me with coverage for my tuition, textbooks, and even an extra semester if needed.

The only reason I’ve been able to get by is because of all the extra support SEEK has provided me with, in not just the things listed above but also academic support e.g. tutoring when needed and even an opportunity to get a head start on my college career with summer classes before my first year. All of these reasons are why I find it extremely unfortunate that SEEK and many other programs like it have  been threatened with budget cuts in the past couple of years. I believe this is extremely unfair because it will create disadvantage to students like me who rely so heavily on SEEK and all that it has to offer. Many successful people, such as engineers, teachers, medical students etc. were blessed with the same opportunity I was given and rose to the occasion, which is why it is extremely important that more funding goes into programs like these.

Mehnaz Sultana, Purchase College

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Luckily, I do not have any student loans as of now but, it does seem like something I might need in the future.  One reason I am actually in college I would say is because the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) exists and the support they provide.  Right now, I’m not taking any loans, but I am struggling. I am a commuter so I have to actually spend two-three hours sometimes commuting depending on when I miss a train or something.

Either I spend more time, or I spend more money.  So, if you’re not in economic debt, then you are in mental debt.   I am totally, I don’t function half of the time. I’m so tired when I come to class, I’m just trying to stay awake. If I didn’t have to commute and if I could live on campus and get up and go to my classes it would be awesome.  I’m pretty sure my grade would not suffer as much as they do right now. It’s hard to balance that time.