College Should Not be Based on How Much You Have

The author at NYU’s accepted students event.

I stared at my phone. It read “Your NYU Admissions Decision is Ready to View.” I sighed. I already knew it was going to be a rejection. After already opening two rejection letters moments earlier from my ‘reach’ schools I just wanted to get this one over with as well. This school was slightly different though, because it was one of my top choice schools.  I knew better not to excite myself over nothing.

I logged on to my student portal and quickly opened the letter. I scanned the page for the keywords you see in rejection letters, ‘Thank you for your interest…’, ‘Difficult decision…’, ‘Could not offer you admission…’ I never found those words. Instead, I found these words: “On behalf of the admissions committee, it is my honor and privilege to share with you that you have been admitted.”

I stared at that email for a while, and then read the whole thing. All three pages of it. After that, I just cried. Not out of disbelief, but out of relief. It’s a good feeling that all of your hard work through not just high school, but my entire school career has been recognized. I believed that my hard work finally got me somewhere and that maybe I could defy the odds I have been living in my whole life. That has been my dream, to lift me and my mom to a life that we deserve to live for all of our hard work. A degree from that college would have helped me to do that.

That dream was shattered as I read my financial aid award days later. As a matter of fact, as I read all of the financial aid letters I received from every school I applied to, public and private universities alike.

It felt like they were all spitting in my face. It felt as if I worked hard for so many years, spending most of my nights studying, practicing cello, sacrificing my social life to basically be told that: “You are academically qualified to attend our school, but your too poor, sorry.” It was at that moment when my whole perspective changed.

I was sad at first, but then I became enraged. They say higher education is the key for upward mobility, but how can that work if I can’t even afford that education, because of circumstances I cannot control? College has lost its purpose, it’s no longer about education, it about how much money you have, and it’s discriminating.

Like many people, I was quick to jump to student loans, but looking at how much it would be, including interest, it looked like more that $100,000 dollars of debt for my dream school, and $60,000 for an in-state school. I knew student loan debt would only hinder my success in the future.

Many say that it doesn’t matter if you go to a public or private university, but that is not the case.

Neha Chowdhury, a senior from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), who has faced a similar situation agrees.

“I mean private universities are different from public because they are private, but private universities offer more opportunities,” she said.

Neha received around $6,000 in financial aid, but that is not nearly enough to attend even a public university, let alone a private university. Isn’t it only fair that if you are academically able to get into a school, you should not have to worry about the cost of attending?

“Its financial aid, but at the same time it’s not enough to be financial aid,” says Jasmine Hong, a senior art major at FSSA “They give you only a little bit of money and you’re expected to make up the rest even though it’s not possible.”

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), calculates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), how much your family can contribute to your college education, and colleges receive that and are expected to make up the difference. Of course, this never happens. 

After much thought, I decided to attend Queens College and see where life takes me. My NYU acceptance letter, will become my motivation. When I went to the accepted students day there was a common mantra that said: “You’re going places.” I responded by saying:“I will go places, do big things, overcome these obstacles, and get rid of these obstacles.”

Money should have no place in determining someone’s education, and I hope that in the future this system can change and allow students like me to be able to attend the school of their dreams.

– by Fanny Noriega 19