By Carmen Rios-Nuñez
Students interviewed for this article say Hunter provides them a decent affordable education. “This school is not too bad,” said Malik Young, 20, a junior majoring in film, who said his mother wanted him to enroll at this college because of its low tuition rates.
The number of students enrolled in New York City public colleges has increased since 2009 from an estimated 61.5 percent of undergraduates enrolled in 2009 to an estimated 64.7 percent of undergraduates enrolled in 2014, according to a United States Census Bureau report. But recent findings by the College Board show that this year’s increases in college costs are also greater than those of 2014-15 and 2013-14.
Hunter, located in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is a CUNY senior college that states that it offers affordable tuition. The CUNY Compact for Public Higher Education – a long-term financing partnership between the University, the state and city governments, philanthropists, alumni and students, according to the information on the website, TK DOES WHAT.,
Still, Young said that a $600 increase in his tuition rate this past summer almost prevented him from enrolling in classes. Young, who works part-time in a Foot Locker retail store, said that to afford the 2016 summer semester, he had to get a temporary job at a warehouse where he bagged clothes that were distributed to homeless shelters. That way, he said, he had enough money to pay his bills and his parents were able to continue making his regular tuition payments, which after all financial aid, tuition assistance program (TAP), and Pell Grants were awarded, added up to $1,000 at the end of each semester.
While he considers financial aid assistance a benefit, Young, who wore a black t-shirt, gray sweat pants, and beats headphones around his neck during the interview in the West Building student cafeteria, said he wished he had money left over after all tuition expenses to cover metro cards, clothing, and lunch, which he said was expensive in the cafeteria.
Although Hunter is ranked “one of the nation’s best schools” in the 2015 edition of The Princeton Review’s guide, students interviewed on this campus, said they didn’t feel as strongly about the level of education they’re receiving.
“I think Hunter doesn’t deserve the amount of money I pay,” said Omer Beydili, 20, a junior in his second semester, majoring in media studies and minoring in political science. Beydili, who is an international student from Turkey, said via email that although the school doesn’t have enough workshops or club activities, his tuition is more than double than that of an in-state student’s.
According to the CUNY website, the tuition rate for a full-time New York State resident student at a CUNY four-year college is $6,330 per year compared to $16,800 per year for an out-of-state resident. Beydili, who is unemployed and does not receive financial aid assistance, said that although tuition rates continue to rise, the school has not made any improvements.
“As an international student, I am only allowed to work in campus, and only for 20 hours,” he said, adding that the salary wouldn’t be enough to cover his $17,000 a year tuition.
A recent study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that more than 70 percent of college students have worked while attending school over the past 25 years. As college enrollment and tuition increased, so did the number of working students, but the extra income isn’t typically enough to cover tuition expenses.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Ana Maria Rico, 31, a Hunter senior, majoring in general media and minoring in women’s studies, who attends classes three days a week and works full-time as a bartender. “I use my breaks in between classes for homework because I work 40 hours a week,” she said via FaceTime from her home in Long Island.
Rico, who transferred to Hunter from Nassau Community College, said that she heard from multiple acquaintances that Hunter was a good, affordable school. She said her eventual decision to transfer was based on the school’s tuition. Almost two years after that initial transfer, Rico said the tuition, which she pays out of pocket through a student loan servicer that helps her break her tuition down into arranged payments, is “feasible.”
But she fears that she won’t be able to find a job after she graduates. “The city is very competitive,” she said. “It’s a big challenge for undergrads to get a job right away.”
According to a 2015 CNBC article, colleges don’t have to report the number of graduates that actually get jobs in their field, making that information incredibly hard to get.
“I really worry about my future,” said Beydili. “Hunter might take away a huge chunk of your money, but it doesn’t guarantee you a job after graduation.” And although Young said that he, too, worried about landing a job after he graduates, he said he still remains hopeful.
“Have fun,” he advised future college students. “You’re lucky. A lot of people don’t get to go to college. Enjoy the time you have.”
Carmen Rios-Nuñez can be reached at Carmen.Rios66@myhunter.cuny.edu