Hi everyone, my name is Helen, and I am a current freshman at Syracuse University. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where I've been for all my life. I learned at a young age that my family was different from most others. My parents immigrated to America on a family reuinification visa in 1992, with just a few bags on their backs and a little girl (my older sister) in their arms. Entering a world that was both alien and alienating, with barely any education and a lack of the English vocabulary, the only jobs offered to my parents were jobs at or below minimum wage that required high physical extertion. My parents divorced in 2004, and my father was granted custody of both my sister and me. My parents taught me and my sister that everything comes at a price - even education. While my father suffers from a permanent disability that prevents him from working, only to survive on government welfare, and my mother was recently fired from her job and lost her husband to cancer, there was never a time or budget for them to create a savings fund for me and my sister's imminent college tuitions.
My current bill with Syracuse stands at $5,781. After all aid (including an exhausted student federal loan limit) is accounted for I will owe $3,199 dollars. To an average student, this amount might seem minuscule, easily paid for by their parents. Indeed, perhaps this explains the response I have heard from financial aid, from the bursar’s office, and from the registrar’s office: If you do not pay your bill, your classes will be cancelled. If you cannot afford your bill, your parent must apply for a Federal Plus loan.
It is an irrefutable fact that my household’s income is far below the poverty line: at $10,554 (adjusted gross income), my father’s 2 person household (in reality, he also supports my uncle, his brother who suffers from long term mental health disabilities) survives on little more than 50% of the $21,983 that is considered the federal poverty level threshold. With this information, the financial aid office has strived to aid me through federal student loans, work study positions, federal and state grants, and outright scholarships. For this aid, I am truly grateful.
But it is a strange experience to be faced with a $3,199 bill (as family contribution) knowing that amount is nearly 1/3 of my father’s yearly income and more than 600% of his estimated savings. All those that I have turned to for help have told me that my only recourse is to Federal Plus parent loans: In addition to a 4.272% loan fee, these loans carry an unforgiving 6.31% interest rate which begins immediate accrual. While I take on my student loans with some comfort in knowing that it is an investment in my future, I cannot with any conscience place this financial burden on either of my parents.
With my father's permanent disability and my mother's recent unemployment and passing of my stepfather who was a major contributor to a household of three(my grandmother, mother, and stepfather), my parents do not have the means to repay a parent loan now or ever.
Knowing my family’s financial situation, I took on a part-time job as a cashier at a busy supermarket while juggling huge workloads from my AP classes in high school. This income has helped my father, my mother, and myself. My savings are intended for the expenses of college that neither of my parents can help me with.
I am afraid that, having just arrived, my dream of college was an illusion in the first place, that Syracuse is not a place for people like me, and that I am not welcome here or that I should be ashamed if my family cannot afford this bill. I am asking for your help because I very much believe in my capacity to contribute to this community and this University, and I hope you do too. Syracuse University represents a driving force in my future, a force that would allow me to better the world.
Please help me make my four years here at Syracuse a reality.
The money raised in this campaign will not be spent haphazardly. Any money donated by you will be used to pay my bill of $6400 for the school year. As a low-income and first-generation student, I understand that not everyone has the funds to donate to my campaign. But even so, sharing my campaign and spreading the word around will mean so much to me and my family. Thank you so much for reading this, donating to my cause, sharing my situation with others, and for being here with me. Your efforts will not be unnoticed by me.
Help spread the word!