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Posts Tagged ‘student loans’

Sarah Zielstorf, SUNY Cortland

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As a college student I knew I would have my fair share of financial issues. Applying for scholarships, grants and taking out loans can be a painful process, especially when you’re deemed not poor enough to get actual help and not rich enough to cover the expenses. I’m a sophomore at SUNY Cortland and am currently in the BFA studying studio art but I plan on changing my major to gear more towards illustration/animation. My career goals involve working for major companies creating storyboard art for tv shows/movies or video games. As an artist I understand that right from the get go I won’t have an immediate high paying job, it’s something I will have to work hard for and I look forward to that part of my life. Furthermore as an artist I know money will be tight but I haven’t even stepped foot into that career field yet and I’m already facing many financial struggles that I was under the impression would be taken care of. As of right now I have received the federal Pell grant, TAP, federal Perkins loan and other loans and I also work to get myself through school. And sadly that still isn’t enough. Due to a low credit score I am unqualified to get more loans that would pile on to my amount of debt. I couldn’t afford to pay my tuition up front so now I make monthly payments, any money I earn I can barely touch because it goes towards a $500.00 monthly payment plan that my mom struggles to help me with.

Any time I need to spend money or finally agree to eat out I always check in with my mom to see if I can afford it. I report back to her any payments I made so we can keep track of our funds. The Excelsior scholarship promised to aid those making $100,000 a year or less. I fall under that category as do many others. The Excelsior Scholarship also claimed it would cover tuition payments and as years progressed the threshold would increase so no one had to pay for college and be in debt. Sounds great right? And it is, in theory. I understand that when any new program rolls out there are bumps in the road but my experience with the scholarship was anything but helpful. If the items on your college bill don’t have the word “tuition” in it you pay for it yourself. Though it’s true that any amount of money is helpful, the specific qualifications for the scholarship helped as little people as possible. One of my friends who received it only got $1,000. After receiving financial aid, federal aid etc and receiving the Excelsior Scholarship I thought I was finally free of counting pennies to see if I could buy a half gallon of milk, I was wrong. The Excelsior Scholarship only allows up to $5,000 per student. Although I qualified, the extra aid I received covered many expenses so the Excelsior Scholarship was taken away from me. The federal aid I received due to my poverty disqualified me from getting more help. I had to pick my poison; get more money from aid, loans and grants, or get anywhere from a few hundred to $5,000 for solely tuition. This scholarship doesn’t include dorms, meal plans, studio fees, lab fees, athletic fees, transportation fees etc. I chose the aid I received because it came out to more than the scholarship. But why do I have to choose?

Those whose incomes are higher don’t qualify for the federal aid that I received so they would receive the Excelsior Scholarship, but I’m not rich enough to solely rely on that. Those who are poorer than me recieve even more aid and may not need Excelsior. Is it better to be so poor that you require full government aid to get you through school?

College is a time for fun, experimenting, learning and so much more. I shouldn’t be crippled by my financial situation. The financial aid office also required my parents 2015 tax records, my financial situation has changed drastically in two years! Looking at recent records most likely would have helped me get more aid but that is not the way the system works. I want to study abroad so I have a savings account but on more than one occasion we’ve had to dip in to help with payments. So I work more to save more money which gets exhausting and cuts into my social life, but I wouldn’t even be able to go to college without this job so I have to keep working.

After going back and forth with the financial aid office (who were not given information about the Excelsior Scholarship) and the Excelsior Scholarship office for two weeks I thought I wouldn’t be able to attend college again and I would have to stay home to work. Luckily I was able to take out a loan and work some more with the financial aid office and dip into my savings account. Life isn’t easy, people have to make sacrifices and work hard, but college is about getting integrated into adult life slowly, not getting thrown in and suffering all the way through.

Malcom Michael, Buffalo State

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Since I was adopted from Russia by my single mother who possess a PHD in English literature, the importance of my education has been emphasized from early on in my life.   As my high school years elapsed and the daunting reality of the real world loomed over my conscience, I found myself applying to community college. To my surprise there were a lot more hurdles I had to overcome then just an entrance exam. Despite New York State offering a wide variety of financial aid support to students, I was unable to qualify for any financial aid.  Thus, my mother and I took loans to supplement the cost of community college. By the end of my two year program the debt I had accumulated was over $9000. With my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice I transferred to Buffalo State College where I am now a senior studying Political Science. As my first year at Buffalo State waned into the past I had accumulated a loan which surpassed $20,000. During the summer prior to my senior year I moved from Buffalo State campus into an apartment close to campus. The summer of 2017 was the beginning to a life full of relentless stress and physical pain. As bills began to pile up I found myself working full time at a local pizzeria.  Luckily for the first time I was actually able to receive financial help from the New York State government through the new Excelsior Scholarship. Which was even harder to receive than loans. Along with the hoops one has to jump through, the programs has many restrictions which have the potential of crippling students. An example of one of these restricting parameters is the required number of credits a student must take during a semester in order to receive the financial support. Over my senior year here at Buffalo State College I have been working 40+ hours a week while being a full time student. The financial burden of living expenses such as rent, utilities, food etc., has made it increasingly difficult to focus and dedicate spare time to school. The fear of eviction and the potential of being homeless is a daunting reality for students who fully support themselves. I often find myself worrying about my finances, rather than worrying about important school assignments.

Ramona Shoy-Parker, Brooklyn College

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I am a freshman at Brooklyn College studying Communication Television and Radio.  Without the Excelsior Scholarship, I would have needed to take out a loan.  Luckily, I found out about the scholarship through Forest Hills High School. They pushed me to fill out FAFSA early. They had an assembly about the scholarship and sent emails with a link to apply.  I don’t plan to stay in Brooklyn College.  My mom just moved to Florida and I will be transferring to a school down there.  I am aware that the scholarship will turn into a loan however, I am still grateful because the scholarship gave my mother time to save up before she can start paying out of pocket.

Currently, balancing work and school is a lot.   I am taking 15 credits while working 40 hours a week to pay for additional costs such as textbooks, food and transportation. My mom helps me out with the costs but balancing it is a lot, especially straight out of high school. If I had the option to take fewer classes I would. I believe the scholarship would be better if students were able to take a mandatory 12 credits because 15 is a lot of pressure, especially since the scholarship doesn’t cover Winter or Summer semesters.

Avalann Bargallo, Buffalo State College

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I was raised in a single parent household with my two sisters. My mom worked full time to support us all. She didn’t get the opportunity to go to college but wanted better for me and my sisters. No one in my family has finished a four year degree yet and that is mainly because of the financial burden.

I am a full time student enrolled in the EOP program and do receive financial aid, but that covers tuition. I still have multiple loans in my name I had to take out and have worked 1-2 jobs during the school years to pay for living expenses such as books, food, my car, and most recently off campus rent because seniors aren’t allowed to live on campus anymore. I would love to just focus on school but that’s not possible.

I am worried about paying back those students loans and possibly wanting to further my education because of the costs. Investing in higher education will greatly improve the future students of New York.

Rory, College of Staten Island

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I am a freshman, and my major is undecided but I’m looking to go into social work. I am taking out government loans which doesn’t cover my full tuition. The rest is covered through a savings account from my dad.

Textbooks are the most stressful cost. I just got work study placement and the money will go toward food, textbooks, and bus transportation. What CSI needs to have is more shuttle buses for people all over Staten Island. It is the closest CUNY to me and still so hard to get to.

 

 

Tyler Williams, Pratt Institute

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My parents pay for my college tuition in two ways. My mother works for a college, so I am eligible for their tuition exchange program. This covers a little more than half of my tuition per year. I also have scholarships but they remain unused because my school does not accept both the tuition exchange and the scholarship at once. The remainder of tuition comes from my parent’s savings. They have been saving small amounts of income since I was born. They also pay for my on campus housing.

The other expenses associated with college such as art supplies, textbooks, transit and food are paid for with my own savings. I work 10 hours a week at the library. I used to work more hours but unfortunately, the school has a limit on how many hours you can work while having an internship. I find that spending money on food, transit, supplies, and textbooks leaves me with little to no money for the other expenses in life. I would love to explore New York more, but the majority of activities require funding that I don’t have. But, getting a college degree is more important at the moment. Thankfully, I won’t have debt from loans after I graduate, but I do plan to pay my parents back. That totals to about $300,000, if not more. So I will have an informal debt on my hands after I graduate. I’m glad that there will not be interest developing because that is A LOT of money that I do not have. 

Jules Matos, SUNY Cortland

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As a senior in high school, was aware of the vast expenses that accompanied a college education.  I was raised in a single parent household, as my father was incarcerated early in my life. My mother, a waitress, did her best to prepare me and my brother for college. Still, I’ve taken out multiple loans in my name, in addition to a Parent Plus loan in my mother’s name. These loans cover tuition and a portion of living expenses, however I pay for the remainder. In addition to being a full-time psychology major with an extensive workload, I work two jobs during the academic year and full-time over the summers to cover cost of living expenses at Cortland.

After I finish my psychology studies here at Cortland, I plan on attending graduate school to study clinical psychology. I love it, why people think the way they do. Everybody deserves the opportunity I’ve gotten, even though it’s been hard. Without education access, our future is much dimmer.

Oni Hackle, SUNY Cortland

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As a Junior at SUNY Cortland, I juggle a full course load in biochemistry, part-time work, and extracurricular activities. I am enrolled in the Work-Study program on-campus and I am a Green Representative.  Sponsored by Residence Life and Housing and Physical Plant, the Green Rep program inspires sustainable lifestyles through peer to peer environmental education programs.  I also find time to be a Supplemental Instruction (SI) tutor.  I’m concerned about be able to fully pay back my student loans. If I don’t get a job, then I’m going to be in debt for my whole life, it seems.

 

Eli, SUNY Cortland

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I am a married father with two biological and two foster children. I went to school later in life out of economic necessity. Higher education affordability is very important to me. In 2012 I was denied a much-needed promotion. Simultaneously, my wife became pregnant with our daughter. The reality of the world hit us. My family couldn’t afford to live on my salary any longer, so I decided to leave the workforce to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

After excelling at Onondaga Community College, I transferred to SUNY Cortland where a large portion of my educational expenses were covered by aid. However, despite working upwards of 25 hours a week, I still had to take out loans to cover additional costs associated with getting a degree like transportation, rent, and textbooks. I could not afford to satisfy these costs juggling a full-course load and part-time work.

I will be graduating in May and will be pursuing a doctorate of physical therapy coupled with a master of public health from Adelphi University. My hope is that I can progress into the world of rehabilitation in the hospital setting, working with spinal cord injury patients.

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.