LS sophomore Zoe Ozochiawaeze was ready to return to her life at NYU, filled with classes, extracurriculars and working as a marketing assistant and student office assistant for NYU— until a change in her father’s work situation derailed her plans and left her with a gap in tuition funding for the Spring 2020 semester.As a result, Ozochiawaeze scrambled to find the money to continue her education before the university’s deadline on Jan. 22 fearing she would be disenrolled from classes. Believing she had exhausted any options from the Financial Aid Office, Ozochiawaeze created a GoFundMe page, which received 84 shares on social media and secured 34 donors raising a total of $2,695.
“At first I felt — I don’t want to say shame per se, but pretty close,” Ozochiawaeze said. “NYU says they’re trying to become less expensive, but I feel like nothing really changes about that, and that pushing this conversation that it’s actually a problem for students might help them.”
While NYU claims to make strides towards affordability such as increasing financial aid, raising student wages and ensuring the value of an NYU education, there is no evidence of attempts to lower the cost of tuition, aside from advice to students from NYU President Andrew Hamilton to graduate faster back in 2017. For the 2020 school year, tuition and the cost of first-year room and board both increased by 2.9%.
Despite owing over $7,000 to NYU, Ozochiawaeze was able to start classes in the Spring. For Joshua Olujide, a Tisch sophomore who also started a GoFundMe to pay tuition, the cycle of affordability panic was relieved by a last minute grant from the Financial Aid Office is a regular occurrence. While he was able to pay for his first-year fall semester through loans and donations, he was unable to pay anything for Spring 2020. However, he was determined to stay at NYU.
“The past year and a half that I have been able to attend, this has been everything that I wished it would be and more,” Ozochiawaeze said. “I don’t think that anywhere else would really challenge me the same way.
The summer before Fall 2019, Olujide received an email from NYU stating he had received an NYU Torch grant, a one time offer that would forgive half of his spring semester balance. Unable to cover the remaining $17,000, NYU emailed him again days before the start of Fall classes telling him he would not be allowed to move back on campus. He then started his GoFundMe page.
“I didn’t like doing it at all, I was just really desperate,” Olujide said. “I knew I only had like three, four days to somehow get $17,000 out of basically nothing.”
Olujide‘s page received 169 donations, 71 shares and raised a total of $7,526. Through GoFundMe and other donations from family and friends, he was able to return to campus in Fall 2019. Half of his Fall 2019 tuition was again forgiven by the Bursar and he was allowed to start classes for Spring 2020.
“It’s actually a more flexible guideline,” Olujide said. “The deadlines are kind of more like fear tactics, to be honest.”
Olujide learned through his tuition difficulties that students like Ozochiawaeze won’t be disenrolled from classes if they owe less than $1,000 for the previous semester, even if they cannot pay for the forthcoming one. Olujide said he wished there was more personal support from the Financial Aid Office to explain nuances like this one.
“[They’re] not as effective as they really should be in helping us,” Olujide said. “I’ve called multiple times, I’ve been to the office multiple times and I always just — it’s like a cycle. I just keep going through the same machine.”
A friend of Ozochiawaeze, CAS sophomore Elizabeth Marquis, has helped several of her friends set up GoFundMe pages to fill tuition gaps. She explained her friends’ anxiety stems from NYU’s unclear tuition funding policies.
“We obviously all know when the bill is due,” she said. “But when you can’t make that deadline and you’re just kind of sitting there waiting to get an email saying you’ve been kicked out, that can be so scary.”
Email Emily Mason at [email protected].