Trump’s Emergency Declaration Upsets Lehman Students

By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes

President Trump views border wall prototypes. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

President Trump views border wall prototypes. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Isn’t that unconstitutional?” asked Lehman sophomore and psychology major, Ana Gomez, about President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on Feb. 15.  During his speech that day at the White House Rose Garden, the president alleged that the declaration was necessary to expedite his border wall plan.  Trump also said that national emergencies have been signed many times by past presidents and that “nobody cares.” Whitehouse.gov states that the president plans to utilize military construction money in order to build the wall.

“I think it’s a symbolic form of bullying,” said Lehman junior and English major Jennifer Monique Crespo regarding the border wall. “With all the reports and research, it has been shown that the border wall is not the main entrance that illegal immigrants use to enter the U.S.,” she added.

A report for the Center for Migration Studies found that the number of illegal immigrants who overstay their temporary visas is double that of immigrants apprehended at the border.  The Department of Homeland Security reported that in 2017, 701,901 immigrants remained in the U.S. past their departure date which dwarfed the 303,916 that were apprehended attempting to cross the border illegally.

Trump’s previous effort to fund the wall resulted in a 35-day shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.  He failed to acquire the money he demanded and on Jan. 25 he signed an act to fund and resume halted operations. This included paying the salaries of more than 800,000 federal workers across the country whose wages had been held since Dec. 22.  The online magazine Vox estimated that 380,000 employees were suspended and 420,000 more worked without pay.

“I think it’s a symbolic form of bullying that the president is doing.” 

- Jennifer Monique Crespo, Lehman junior and English major 

The shutdown also impacted students, since all financial aid checks, scholarships, and other federal aid were delayed. This impeded the enrollment of thousands of students, including the 59 percent of Lehman students who receive financial aid, according to Lehman’s Department of Institutional Research.

Lehman junior and computer science major, Guevara Torres said, “I was definitely worried, not so much about coverage [of the shutdown] but on what terms my loans would need to be fulfilled.”

NY’s Tuition-Free Program Has Not Relieved CUNY Students’ Financial Burden

By Perla Tolentino

Lehman College campus. Photos by Perla Tolentino.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced the Excelsior Scholarship two years ago to much fanfare as a program promising tuition liberation to all N.Y. four-year colleges. But while Cuomo’s big offer was said to be alleviating, Lehman and other CUNY students continue to suffer financially. 

The main drawback seems to be the requirements that become prohibitive for a majority of students. Qualified students may receive up to $5,500 per semester, but applicants must meet a long list of requirements in order to receive full aid, as reported by Forbes a month after Cuomo announced the program. These include an income of less than $110,000, full-time enrollment of at least 12 credits per semester and a total of 30 credits per academic year, and no student loans in default, according to N.Y. Higher Education Services Corporation. Applicants who enrolled prior to 2018-19 must have earned 30 credits per year before applying for the program.

According to the New York Post, Governor Cuomo stated that the scholarship was intended to support middle-income families because most full-time lower-income CUNY students already receive enough government assistance to cover their tuition without the scholarship. That might explain the program’s lackluster results, which show that over two-thirds of applicants, or 68 percent according to Times Union, have been turned down. The N.Y. based newspaper also revealed that the 30-credit requirement is the main fail line for applicants. 

Lehman College Office of Financial Aid, located in Shuster Hall room 136.

Only 4,155 students across all of CUNY have been awarded the Excelsior Scholarship, according to Center for an Urban Future. In 2018, Lehman had a total enrollment of 11,230 students. Only 168 of these students received the Excelsior Scholarship, a mere 1.4 percent of the 2018 enrollment year. This is a sliver of the 59 percent of Lehman students who qualified for grants or scholarships and the 21 percent who are utilizing loans or other forms of financial support in order to pay for school, according to the Department of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment at Lehman. 

Because most financial aid only covers fall and spring semesters, the 30-credit requirement sets an especially high bar for working students who also depend on financial aid. Since they cannot afford to pay out of pocket for credits, they must take five classes each semester in addition to maintaining their work schedules, in order to be eligible for the Excelsior. 

Shut out of the tuition-free Excelsior promise, most Lehman students continue to seek other ways to cover their educational costs. “I knew about the Excelsior free-tuition program before and I have struggled a lot with financial aid. Unfortunately, I don’t qualify for either,” said Jesmy Pujols, a 35-year-old Lehman social work major in her third year. “I’ve had problems with my paperwork disappearing and my fall 2018 loan is still not even finalized yet,” she said.

“I knew about the Excelsior free-tuition program before and I have struggled a lot with financial aid. Unfortunately, I don’t qualify for either.” 

- Jesmy Pujols, a 35-year-old Lehman social work major

Steven Roa, a 23-year-old Lehman senior and English major, also reported difficulties with financial aid. “I’ve been struggling with financial aid since I was at LaGuardia Community College, and it was because they delayed my assistance,” he said. “I heard of the Excelsior Scholarship but didn’t look into it because I’m in my senior year.”

Lehman sophomore, Ashley Thomas, concurred. “Although I’m familiar with the Excelsior Scholarship, I have struggled with financial aid. In spring 2018 I had to take out a loan in order to cover my tuition.” The 22-year-old social work major offered this advice: “You have to be assertive and be knowledgeable. Ask questions and know the contact information of every financial aid representative available.”