I am currently a junior at Cornell University, working toward a bachelor’s degree in international agriculture and rural development with a concentration in social development and livelihoods.

From the time I was a child, I knew above all else that my parents expected me to graduate high school and go to college. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would follow that path. I grew up in a comfortable, loving home, and my parents always supported me throughout high school; I was a straight A student and graduated third in my class from a small, rural high school. I was never worried about how I was going to pay for college. I entered Wells College, a small private institution in upstate New York, knowing that I would have to pay roughly $8,000 a semester after scholarships.

Halfway through my very first semester, the economic crisis hit and my parents lost most of their savings, along with the value of their investments; as a result, they were no longer able to co-sign my college loans. For the first time ever, my ability to pay for my schooling was in jeopardy. I was forced to ask friends and family members to co-sign my loans, and it began to cross my mind that my dream of going to college might come to an abrupt end. It seemed like the only choice I had was to drop out of college or take an extended leave in order to work full time.

At the same time, tuition at Wells increased. I started putting in nearly 30 hours each week at my part-time job, six to seven days a week, and had to contend with a one and a half hour commute. I woke up at 8:00 am every morning, went to class, then work, and then returned home and did homework until the early hours of the morning. Being constantly on the go, I oftentimes ate just an apple for dinner, or made a quick trip through a fast food drive-through window (if I had time to eat at all).

After months of running around, trying to make enough money to support myself through college, I reached a breaking point, both physically and emotionally. Realizing that I no longer had the resources, or the interest, in staying at Wells, I began to consider other options. After a long search and probably the hardest few months of my life, I transferred to Cornell University.

As I finish up my second semester at Cornell, I feel strongly that the wealth of financial aid available at Cornell is the only reason I have been able to make a smooth transition from Wells; student aid has been one of the few reasons I have been able to continue my college education. Being a Cornell student gives me access to extraordinary grants and an excellent financial aid office. Staff have given their all in order to make sure that I receive every penny of financial aid I deserve. I benefit from several programs: federal subsidized loans, Pell grants, institutional grants through Cornell, Federal Work-Study and various other forms of student aid; as a result, I haven’t needed to take out a single (private) loan since becoming a Cornell student, and I don’t see any reason why my personal finances will keep me from finishing my education. Having no any major out-of-pocket expenses has also allowed me to begin saving up for an eight-week internship in Central America this coming summer! For the first time since starting college, I can afford to work fewer hours each week, which allows me to focus on being a student–an accomplishment I know would not have been possible without student aid.

Every student in need, in every institution, should be able to access the student aid and resources I have received. It is drastically important that funding for student aid budgets does not get cut.

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