Richmond Hill woman transfers to LaGuardia Community College to escape student debt

Courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

A Richmond Hill woman transferred to LaGuardia Community College to escape her student debt.

After graduating from the Mathematics, Science Research and Technology school at the Campus Magnet Educational Campus in Cambria Heights, Andrea Mattis thought she was ready to pursue her dream at a four-year private college in Brooklyn.

But after a year-and-a-half she came to the realization that she could not stay at Long Island University Brooklyn due to her mounting student debt.

“I thought after taking a college prep course in high school I felt ready and I really wanted to go to a four year school and not a community college,” Mattis said. “It turns out I didn’t really understand much about college and I realize now I had no idea how student aid worked. Now you could say it was ignorance.”

Mattis had taken out $20,000 in loans to attend but when she realized how fast the debt was growing and how hard it was to pay down she decided to switch to LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, where her older sister attended. She assumed the 20 credits she had earned would be transferred to LaGuardia and was shocked to learn LIU won’t release her credits until she pays her debt.

Mattis currently owes about $9,000 in back tuition.

“LIU offered no guidance, they flat out said if you don’t pay we’re not transferring those credits,” Mattis said. “I’m paying it off every month. It’s a slow process but it’s working.”

But in the meantime, Mattis, 21, is taking introductory courses intended for first-year students at LaGuardia when she should be well into her second-year courses.

“I had to decide whether to start over or wait until I paid off my debt,” Mattis said. “I had no idea that my credits could be held up because of the debt, but they are. I have nothing at all to show for my year and a half at LIU, nothing at all.”

Despite her troubles, she said she’s happy to have found her way to LaGuardia.

“Not only am I not accruing any more student loan debt, but I feel like I’m getting a better education, too,” Mattis said. “The professors are really nice and they actually care. I’m also finding it easier to make friends here.”

Mattis expects to graduate with her associate degree in political science in June 2021. Her goal is to find a career where she’s able to connect with people. She joined the CUNY ASAP program at LaGuardia, which helps her pay for her tuition, textbooks and transportation, and connected her with an advisor to help guide her to graduation.

“LaGuardia is more in-depth when it comes to finances where LIU was vague,” Mattis said. “I’m not bashing LIU, every school is a good school. LIU is a good school but there are some people who don’t help you navigate your way. At LaGuardia they navigate me very well.”

In retrospect, Mattis wishes she had listened to her older sister from the beginning. She also regrets that her high school guidance counselors or her college prep course did not teach her about the benefits of attending a community college.

“My experience has taught me a lot about how college works,” Mattis said. “I wish I’d started at LaGuardia and never took out any student loans. I want to share my story so that other folks learn from it and don’t make the same mistakes I did.”

To apply to LaGuardia Community College or schedule a campus tour, visit https://www.laguardia.edu/Apply/. For same-day admissions, call 718-482-7206, email admissions@lagcc.cuny.edu or come in person at 29-10 Thomson Ave., Room C-102, Long Island City, Queens.

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