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When TAP Goes Missing, Students Head to Financial Aid Office

The sound of feet tapping on linoleum fills a windowless room accompanied by heavy sighs and shuffling papers. Faces turn up to a screen, hopeful that their name will be the next to pop up. A bell dings, followed by a pre-recorded message: “Please report to counter two,” and a woman in a navy coat strides up to the counter. 

 

It is five weeks into the Spring 2020 semester and Hunter’s financial aid office is bustling. On top of classes, deadlines and tests, an unpaid tuition balance on CUNYFirst can have a significant impact on students, and especially those who rely on aid. For one Hunter Freshman, Victoria Cecere, the financial aid office is an all too familiar place. “I have made countless appointments with Hunter’s financial aid team. They took some of my aid last semester without any warning. It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized that part of my TAP was also missing due to one of their random recalculations.”

 

More than an estimated 11,500 students receive TAP in the Fall and Spring terms within the academic year, according to a spokesperson from Hunter’s Financial Aid Office. The number of TAP awards reinstated or not reinstated varies by term and for several reasons. While no precise statistics are available, the number of students who lose TAP funding is relatively low, compared to the number of eligible students, according to a Hunter spokesperson.

 

NYS Tuition Assistance Program awards are often given in supplement to Pell Grants, for full-time students in good academic standing. TAP is New York’s largest grant program and is based on student or parent income. Students who are enrolled full-time in an eligible program at an institution within the state can be granted awards ranging from $500 to $5,000.

 For students, a few hundred to thousand dollars can make all the difference, and what doesn’t cover tuition often covers books.

 

“I’ve felt that anxiety at times I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cover my tuition bill,” said communications major Bob Palos. “It starts to bleed over into other areas too. I worried about paying rent,”

 

Undergraduate students can receive TAP for up to four years.  Minors are not counted towards TAP, as they are not considered necessary towards a degree, required from ineligible courses, major changes, or as assurance the student will remain within the appropriate GPA range.

 

NYS Higher Education Services Corporation websites states that the most common reasons TAP can be dropped are losing full-time status, not being a NYS resident, or falling below the necessary GPA range, which is a C-average. A spokesperson from Hunter’s Financial Aid office did not recommend calling HESC directly, as representatives do not have direct access to student accounts. 

 

A spokesperson from Hunter’s Financial Aid Office additionally recommends reviewing all academic policies and program requirements listed in the Hunter College catalogue, as well as responding to MyHunter emails in a timely and efficient manner in order to ensure their award status remains active. 

 

“Part of my decision to attend a CUNY school was based on the low tuition rates. Seeing this money be randomly taken away is not only frightening but also aggravating,” said Cecere. 

 

For students that are within GPA requirements, navigating the ins and outs of reinstating their award can be a daunting task.

 

“I feel like there needs to be a new system put in place so that this doesn’t happen to us every semester–at least that’s what it’s starting to feel like,” added Cecere. 

 

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