First generation students are left in the dark about loans

For the first time in my life, I’m afraid to open my email. As a first generation student, I knew next to nothing about the student loan repayment system or how I would manage to cover my tuition.

My uncertainty has only increased following the global pandemic. Food instability, financial difficulties and virtual learning have affected not only myself, but million students Across the country. COVID-19 has lit the flame that has awakened much of the nation to the struggles of higher education accessibility. The University of California, Los Angeles Health conducted a study in September 2021 concluding that 93% of university students surveyed struggled to cope with pandemic-related stressors; a total of 44% reported financial burdens, while 18% were victims of racial or ethnic discrimination.

Being just one person, I wasn’t sure there was much I could do to change the circumstances I had experienced. It was only when I made connections with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) as an intern that I really started to see the pandemic as a lamp rather than a wildfire. While working with NYPIRG, I lobbied for higher education accessibility initiatives that seek to expand and protect assistance programs and those they serve. The widespread use of video conferencing in the wake of the pandemic has made action even more accessible.

During NYPIRG’s Higher Education Week action, for example, other students and I were able to meet with New York State Senator Rachel May and her office on Zoom to bring stories from real students on campus to make student voices heard.

Along with maintaining and expanding opportunity programs, more public funding for Help “Bundy” and expanding the tuition assistance program is a key way to continue accessibility to higher education. With the final New York State Budget expected on April 1st, it’s critical that the move happen now! A person’s power comes from our actions; it’s more than taking the time to hear my story, but taking the time to let others know yours.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a life-altering event that has shattered our expectations for the future. I and many other students have faced this reality first hand. Although the future continues to look uncertain, the light of our past will guide us.

Melaica Delgado, Class of 2022

Comments are closed.