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CUNY's a great choice on a budget or not

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.

QUESTION:

Where did Colin Powell, Shirley Chisholm, Jerry Seinfeld, Walter Mosley and Jimmy Smits go to college?

Time has now come for high school seniors to make the decision of where to go to college. For some, the question may be easy. It does not depend on finances or location, but on what a young person wants for the future and where they got accepted.

For others, the question can be really hard and, at times, painful. Students get accepted to colleges everywhere, from south Florida, to Maine, New York to California. But where do they choose? A private college in the Northeast can cost, including room and board, upward of $40,000 a year. Some other schools may be more reasonable at $25,000 a year all in, but what if those numbers are just not realistic? If a senior is weighing all of his or her options and money is an issue, there are several key things to think about:

1) How much is the school willing to give in financial aid?

2) What does the package look like?

a. Grants

b. Work study

c. Loans

3)Will other loans need to be taken out (and at what rate)?

4)Are there outside scholarships available?

5)At the end of the first year, how much will the family owe on loans?

6)At the end of four years, how much will be owed?

If these numbers add up to something unthinkable or if it does not make sense on many levels, CUNY could be the answer. The City University of New York has 11 senior colleges and six community colleges in the five boroughs. In addition, CUNY has the Macaulay Honors College and the CUNY B.A. program. These colleges and programs rival the best of the private colleges in the U.S. at a rate of 70 percent to 80 percent less. Yearly tuition is approximately $4,600 per year, not including fees and room and board. While most of the schools do not have student housing, there are a few that do and the room costs average less than $5,000 for two semesters.

The amount of opportunities in the classroom and out in CUNY is immeasurable. With New York City as a campus, the opportunities are limitless.

So, for a savings over other colleges of 70 percent or more, a student can get out of college with little or no debt. Students can get the same federal and state grants that are applied to private four-year colleges. Scholarships are available and some even provide housing stipends. There are programs for returning veterans and non-traditional students. There are programs in every discipline imaginable at a price that is manageable. CUNY could be the answer to your nightmares. And if you think that it is not prestigious enough, think again.

ANSWER: CUNY