When she was growing up in the Ditmars section of Astoria, Erica Rosa had a plan. When she was graduating from St. John’s Prep, last year, Rosa was determined to go to a four-year school on Long Island.
“I really wanted the whole college experience of going away and dorming and I had my eyes on Molloy College near Rockville Center,” she said.
Rosa was accepted to Molloy and applied for financial aid and was confident that she would get enough to cover the neary $50,000 per year to cover tuition, room and board and other college fees. But Rosa was offered less than $20,000 and realized she would have to take out more than $20.000 to $30,000 per year in loans.
Around the same time, her grandfather, whom she considers a second father, got sick and his recovery was in question. After much thought, Rosa realized it wasn’t the right time to go to a private college and incur so much debt, so she thought she would take a year off, but her mother, who hadn’t been able to go to college herself, having become a single mother at age 21, insisted she go to college in the fall.
“But my mom didn’t want me to take time off and suggested I check out LaGuardia Community College because it was super convenient just down the road in Long Island City and affordable,” Rosa said. “I never even considered a community college and my guidance counselors always encouraged the four-year college experience.”
She applied at the LaGuardia Community College campus using a process known as “Direct Admit.”
“I got in on the spot and arranged my fall class schedule. Everything worked out, for sure,” Rosa said. “I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason. I absolutely love it at LaGuardia. I’ve been able to find what I’m passionate about, and have met so many incredible people.”
Rosa got an on-campus job on the college’s Street Team, a group of students who work with LaGuardia’s Marketing & Communications team to produce content and campaigns to reach students with vital information to help them along their way to graduation. She realized she had a passion for marketing, which she plans to pursue as a career.
Now 19, Rosa is currently a Liberal Arts: Social Science and Humanities major with a 3.4 GPA. Her goal is to graduate from LaGuardia and then earn her bachelor’s in marketing, hopefully at NYU, where her mother works in the law school library.
Rosa has avoided the burden of crushing student loan debt that has affected more than 44 million Americans totalling more than $1.56 trillion, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve. Her mother paid for her first year and she is currently applying for scholarships from the LaGuardia Community College Foundation and other programs.
“I would say to others experiencing the same financial and family situation I was in to check out community colleges instead,” Rosa said. “”You should ask yourself, is four years of fun really worth all of that debt when you could have gone a different route? You shouldn’t just go to a four-year college simply because everyone else is”
Her grandfather is doing much better now. He’s currently home with his wife of 47 years, recovering from a life-threatening sepsis infection that required the amputation of several fingers and toes.
“He’s doing much better, thank god,” she said.