A lot of people fail to consider how financial aid needs to cover more than just tuition. The living expenses associated with getting a college education quickly add up and end up costing students thousands of dollars on necessities — mandatory expenses that not everyone can afford. Even though I was lucky enough to get financial assistance to afford my tuition, like many other students, I’m left responsible for hundreds of dollars in books and transportation each semester as well as thousands of dollars for housing.
I lived on campus at City College when COVID-19 hit; we were told we would receive partial refunds for leaving our leases early but we only received this money six months later. Additionally, many students had already signed lease agreements for the Fall 2020 semester, and the only financial solution for them was to pay $1000 to terminate that lease or be held responsible for the full $12-18 thousand dollars. Most students pay for dorming with their finances and the refunds could have had a significant impact on students who lost income due to the pandemic. In a twisted way, COVID-19 has made college more affordable for me by reducing the cost of transportation to campus and allowing me to live with my parents instead of paying for housing. It’s time politicians in Albany acknowledge the external costs of higher education.
I am a junior at Queens College majoring in both Art Education and Illustration. I chose Queens College because it is one of the only public schools with both these majors. I’ve been drawing since I was a child, so I wanted to take the opportunity to get a degree specific to my interests. I also love to help people learn, so art education felt like the perfect match.
The financial aid I get doesn’t cover the full cost of attendance, and these extra costs cut into the incredibly tight budget my family has to survive. It demolishes my family’s ability to afford our basic needs. In New York, we all pay too much in rent and bills, and for my family, any extra cost of any kind makes it so that we can’t afford groceries.
My mother is a single parent supporting two children through college. Her health is deteriorating, and work is getting harder for her. Also, financial aid takes forever to process. When it doesn’t get processed on time, my account goes on hold, and I can’t register for my classes for the next semester. Right now, with the threat of $9,000 coming out of my family’s empty pockets, the future of my education is at risk.
I live in the dorms on campus because my family lives almost two hours away. I made the decision not to live at home because I wanted to ensure that nothing got in the way of my education, including traffic. But I feel like every time I make the right decision for my education, it seems like everything else has to take a hit—especially my finances.
If school were free or if I got more aid, I wouldn’t have to worry about these things, and I wouldn’t have to put my family into unimaginable debt just hoping things work out in the future. I shouldn’t have to tank my family’s livelihood just for a chance at success.