A New York University has published the letter she personally wrote to school president John Sexton explaining her anger that she must drop out of college due to financial concerns, seeing it as the only way to avoid a life in education debt.
Lucy Parks said she faced violence as a gay teen in rural Virginia, and wanted to go somewhere like NYU in New York City -- located blocks away from what some consider the birthplace of gay rights activism -- that's considered LGBT friendly. She further explained she came from modest means, with a middle school librarian as her mother and a father who made instruments and cabinets before passing away due to cancer.
Parks, who would've graduated in 2016, said she told the financial aid office in fall 2013 she needed at least another $10,000 or she'd have to leave, but was only offered an increase of $2,000:
After my college fund had been entirely depleted by the two years that I spent here, I faced the difficult choice of leaving without a degree or taking on an extra $60,000 to $80,000 of debt on top of the $15,000 I already owe. For fear that I would have to dedicate the best years of my life to paying that off, I decided to leave. I remain confident in my choice, but deeply saddened and angered by the fact that my only options were either to leave or devote years of my life post-graduation to paying off my debts.
(Read the entire letter embedded below.)
NYU has faced considerable criticism in recent years over generous loans for college administrators' second homes, apartments for professors who don't work for the university, while having one of the most indebted student bodies in the country.
Parks explains in the letter, posted on Sept. 10, although the university was her "dream school," she concluded "students are not valued at NYU, but profit is":
I am writing you because I am angry. President Sexton, you make nearly $1.5 million a year and as one of your students I often had to go hungry - and I am not the only one. I am angry that the new president-to-be of our Board of Trustees used to make millions off of student loan debt incurred by people like me. I am angry that people like him get far more say in the decisions of this University than teachers or students. I am angry that kickbacks and swanky vacation home packages have been given to favored professors and administrators, but students are still living in Bobst because they can’t afford housing. I am angry because NYU is continuing with the 2031 plan for expansion despite the fact that students, professors, and community members all stand firmly against it. And while so much of our money is being spent on those things, students like me have to leave because we aren’t given enough financial aid.
"While federal law prohibits NYU and every university from discussing the details of an individual student's financial aid package, I can say this: it is always a matter of regret to us when we cannot address a student's financial aid needs fully, even in cases in which we might be giving an individual student tens of thousands of dollars per year in scholarship money," NYU spokesman John Beckman told The Huffington Post.
Beckman noted only a small minority of universities are able to meet the full financial need a student may have and NYU is not among them, however, the university has increased its financial aid budget by more than 130 percent over the last 10 years, and it's currently fundraising to do more.
"As I said, we respect the choice this student and her family made," Beckman said. "But we also believe in the value and excellence of the education NYU offers ... And we believe the strong outcomes for NYU students in terms of finding jobs after graduation or continuing on to graduate or professional school demonstrate that."
Prior to her submission of the letter, she posted about dropping out on Twitter.
NYU Student & Labor Action Movement, a campus activist group, is citing her letter as one reason they are organizing to demonstration against the growing student debt crisis.