Financial Aid At NYU Leaves Students Often Needing More
By Henry B. Chan
When Kira Antaya decided to come to New York University, she knew it would be difficult. She knew that the cost of attending the university would be high, but she chose to attend anyways, “even if it means that you’re gonna owe somebody money for the rest of our life,” she said. Now a senior, Antaya will graduate in May with about $150,000 of debt. “I’m looking at paying this off for the rest of my life.”
Antaya is one of many students at NYU who struggle to come up with the money to attend. Approximately 60 percent of undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need receive aid from the university, a percentage that many students feel should be improved upon. Ranked number one on the Princeton Review’s list of students dissatisfied with their school’s financial aid system, students at NYU say that the school fails to meet the demonstrated need of many students, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, many students still choose to attend the university, despite dissatisfaction with financial aid.
Caitlin Boehne, a senior majoring in politics, chose to attend the university, even when the estimated costs of attending were far beyond her ability to pay. “I wanted to come to NYU since I was like 12 because I heard they had a really good law school and I was that super ambitious dork of a sixth grader,” she said. Cameron Nico, a senior at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, chose to attend NYU because of his dream. At the early age of eight, Nico decided to become an entertainer. “New York was my destination,” he said. Both students understood the financial burdens they would shoulder upon their entrance to the university and these financial burdens have defined their college experience.
Nico believed that his early admission to the university would mean that the school would provide him with the full amount he needed in aid. He learned later that he was wrong. Nico is graduating a year later than he should have, having had to take three semesters off because of his inability to pay the school. This has left him disillusioned with the university. “NYU is basically robbing kids of their money and their false dreams,” he said.
Boehne, on the other hand, chose to try and change the system. Driven by her own financial need and desire for change, she joined the Tuition Reform Action Coalition (TRAC) during her freshman year in the hopes that its work would help remedy her situation, and the problems of hundreds of other students. One of TRAC’s goals was to have NYU meet one hundred percent of students’ demonstrated need, a goal that still has yet to be achieved, despite many efforts.
When asked about the complaints about the university’s financial aid system, John Beckman, NYU’s spokesman, said that there were limits on the university’s financial aid resources. Despite this, he urges students to go to the financial aid office if their circumstances have changed due to the recession. One such method a student can use is the budget appeal form. This form, if used successfully, can increase a student’s aid budget, the total amount of aid a student can receive per academic year. Such a form is helpful, according to Boehne, who has used it in the past. Through the budget appeal, Boehne has successfully increased her student aid budget by an approximate total of $12,000 during her four years at NYU. “It’s so easy,” she said. “The difficult thing is finding it. Or knowing one is out there.” Indeed, many students remain unaware of the budget appeal form. When asked about it, Antaya said she had never heard of it. Nico only heard about the appeal this year, and plans on using it. “This university really does not inform students of the other options available to them,” he said.
Boehne acknowledges the help that the budget appeal has given her, but believes it isn’t enough to fix the larger problem of financial aid, describing the appeal as a “little band aid.” She also believes that NYU should make sure the students are aware of the appeal, saying that the people who really need financial aid “aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be the ones to find the appeal form.”
These financial aid struggles are a huge part of what it means to be an NYU student. For some students like Nico, these struggles have left them cynical of the university. For many others, however, the financial aid struggles have not changed their love for the university. “We love NYU too and want to be here, but there’s nothing wrong with pushing for something better,” says Boehne. Antaya too hopes that things will change. “I’d really like to see NYU do something about it,” she said, adding that the administration should “give more people a chance to attend NYU.”