Posts Tagged ‘student loans’

Leslie Spinosa, Pratt Institute

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.

Eric Jing Guo, Buffalo State College

Eric Jing Guo has been a student for many many years. He has had to take out loans to be able to pay for his education since he didn’t receive any assistance from the state. Like many students, he  is worried about paying back his looming student debt. 

But Eric is a dedicated student and has worked incredibly hard to get to where he is today, as a graduate student, a teacher’s assistant, and a research assistant in his field of study, which is public/non-profit management, as well as market computer discipline science. Eric hopes to use the knowledge he has gained through his college experience to help small businesses promote themselves and grow their markets. He feels that in today’s world, a college education is important to succeed. 

The pandemic has hit everyone, but thankfully Eric was at the very end of his degree, and since he is taking his final class to graduate he said it has not been too much of a burden on him, however, he and his cousin have both lost income due to these trying circumstances. But one thing Eric has noticed is just how much the pandemic affects the class dynamic. It comes as no surprise that overall communication between teachers and students has become more difficult, as sending an email doesn’t exactly lend for the best back and forth sort of discussion that is necessary for fostering education. 

Eric doesn’t have too much more to go before he accomplishes his goal and is thankful for all the individual support he has received from his professors and peers over his time being a student in America. 

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.

Bryan Reynoso, Syracuse University

I’m a freshman at Syracuse University studying Economics, and I am originally from the Bronx, NY. I decided to attend Syracuse because of all the opportunities available to make connections and build skills for my life after I graduate. Most employers believe that a bachelor’s degree is the same as what a high school diploma is now, and that means we need to build up our resumes so much while also being full-time students. I’m blessed enough to be able to receive part of my costs paid for by private scholarships as well as Pell Grants and a TAP reward, but I’ve still been forced to take out thousands of dollars in loans per year. I still don’t understand why I was forced at 18 to make a decision about going into debt for the next three decades in order to attend the college I wanted to.

I was only able to afford textbooks and some of my personal costs for the past 2 semesters by working at a full-time internship over the summer, and even then I had to use my loan refund to pay for the rest in the Spring. Having to pay an additional $1000 for one year’s worth of textbooks wasn’t something that I was prepared for as an incoming Freshman, and I don’t know how other students who aren’t able to save as much can pay for them. Going forward, I’m extremely worried about cuts to financial aid programs such as TAP and the Pell Grant program because there is no way I’d be able to continue to attend Syracuse without that help. Even though we are a private school, Syracuse students rely on assistance from our state government to be able to afford an education and help out our families after we graduate, instead of taking out even more loans and going deeper into debt.

Tenneson Lewis, Queens College

I’m a sophomore, majoring in history and most interested in focusing on European history, specifically around the world wars. I’d like to pursue a master’s degree and eventually become a professor. It was my high school history teacher who inspired me to get into history; they were particularly good at connecting historical events to current events of today in a fun, relatable way.

I’m currently paying for tuition through TAP, with my parents supplementing out-of-pocket costs to cover the leftover tuition, textbooks, and school fees. I’m the fourth student in my family, with three older siblings, who attended out-of-state schools, took out loans to pay for tuition, and are now paying off their debt.

This is stressful for our family, as the cost of paying for school out-of-pocket and the cost of paying off debt becomes a family challenge. For me in particular, I feel the stress of considering balancing full-time school and part-time work to help alleviate the stress on my family’s budget.

As far as the biggest challenge paying for college? Textbooks. I have to weigh the pros and cons of buying each book individually; I play a complicated guessing game to determine which books will be necessary for which classes in order to be successful while saving money. This is a familiar game among many undergraduate students. How do I get an A without breaking the bank? Students should never have to go without textbooks—a key component in receiving the education we’re already paying for—in order to conserve money needed to get by.

Ultimately, my goal is to receive two degrees from Queens College while taking on as little financial burden as possible and being connected to stable career opportunities, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

Jessica Woodberry, NYC College of Technology

Credit-wise I’m a senior, but I will be here until 2021. I would like to go to law school, but I can’t afford to pay for LSAT exam, which is a couple hundred dollars. I came from the Fashion Institute of Technology graduating with a major in pattern-making technology. Then I went to John Jay where I got my Bachelors in English and minor in Law, and now I’m studying at City Tech as a Law and Paralegal major. I continued to go to school thinking that TAP would cover it because they didn’t tell me that they only cover four years of school. I pay for school through student loans now.

My parents pay for my textbooks, I receive SNAP for food, and I am concerned about graduating on time. Tuition is going up, and I can’t afford it, which means I can’t take full amounts of classes like I want to. I had to go part-time at one point because I couldn’t afford to take full-time credits.

I got sick senior year of my first bachelors, so I had to take a semester off, and then I had a miscarriage so I took another semester off, and what they don’t tell you is that they count those semesters off as part of the 4 years of TAP.

I really need the prices to come down because I’m a single parent with a 14 year-old daughter, and I’m trying to make ends meet. I’m trying to further my career, but it’s too expensive.

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.