Remember when you were applying to colleges? Remember ever waking up early to take your SAT/ACT exams? Remember ever asking yourself how will I pay for school? Remember? Well, I remember. For me, the college-going process began during my sophomore year of high school, I was in a class called AVID (Advance Via Individual Determination) and I was doing a project with one of my friends. We were to research a college of our choice and present to the class some basic information such as majors, tuition, room and board, surrounding areas, school demographics and our opinion on the school. My friend and I chose Dominican College, mostly because we were both from the Dominican Republic and thought that this school was geared towards our community for lack of a better word.
To our surprise, this school was not what we thought it was. In fact, at the time of our “research,” the Hispanic population at the school did not amount to even a fourth of the total population. This was eye opening, not because of the demographics, but because of the tuition! This was the first time in which I remember being exposed to having to pay for academia. Ever since migrating from the Dominican Republic, I had attended public school in New York. Now I was being informed that these schools charged north of twenty $20,000 a year (or so I thought). This was not all, then I came across this video from the National Inflation Association and after some consideration I decided that maybe college was not the best option for me.
I became interested in the armed forces, I liked the rigid structure and the patriotism that comes with it. I also learned that the branch that I wanted to join, the Air Force, was the only branch with an accredited community college. I thought that I could serve for some years, and then use the G.I. Bill to pay for tuition. I was ill informed about the options that were available to me, I had little knowledge of the City University of New York (CUNY), let alone the State University of New York (SUNY) systems. I did not know that I could receive federal and state aid and I would not receive this knowledge until I was about to graduate from high school.
After I graduated, I was going to enlist with one of my friends, but after an unexpected turn of events, I missed the opportunity and was left in limbo. I decided that I would give CUNY a chance. Their tuition was affordable, and because of the federal aid that I was set to receive, I would not have to pay out of pocket, thinking that I would essentially be having a full ride through college. I chose Herbert H. Lehman College because of their computer science program and the school’s proximity to my house (Only a 20 minute train ride). I was already familiar with the school since I had taken a College Now class there during the spring of my senior year of high school.
I chose CUNY because it was affordable and because it gave me flexibility. The system has over 20 universities ranging from community colleges, senior colleges and doctoral and post-doctoral colleges. The system is not perfect, no system ever is, and the system has been suffering many budget cuts, but I feel that the education that I have gained, for the price that I’ve have had to pay makes up for all of the bureaucratic nonsense that students like me have to go through.