The Student Loan Podcast – Episode 9 – Jorge Alguera
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Daphné Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez



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About This Episode

Jorge Alguera (@cunybmi) graduated Nassau Community College with an A.A.S in Marketing, CUNY Queens College with a B.A in Latin American and Latino Studies, and is currently a part-time 1L student at the CUNY School of Law. Jorge works as the University Assistant Director of the CUNY Black Male Initiative, where he oversees mentoring initiatives, manages communications and facilitates recruitment for campus based opportunity programs for the Black Male Initiative projects.  

Jorge coursed through and graduated while undocumented and now as a DACA recipient, he works to advocate for undocumented and DACAmented students across the university, by connecting staff, faculty and students on the undocumented experience, and referring students to programs, opportunities and allies across the university. Jorge Alguera joins the show to share his personal journey of obtaining a higher education while being an undocumented immigrant. Be prepared to leave your excuses at the front door.

This episodes discusses how Jorge went from paying $15K for an associates degree to having to pay only $1,500 while completing his first semester of law school part-time. Jorge also shares his perspective as a college administrator and discusses why he gives back to the community through programs such as the CUNY Black Male Initiative.

In addition to your notebooks, pull out some Kleenex (not a sponsor) because Jorge inspires with his humble beginnings, his steady perseverance, and unwavering optimism.


What We Discuss with Jorge Alguera:

  • How Jorge discovered like so many other students, that he was undocumented.
  • Why he persisted in the face of adversity?
  • How your 18 year old vision may not be the path of your future.
  • How to better leverage campus resources.
  • How to take advantage of programs like the Black Male Initiative.
  • How a digital college experience still provides value to your college career.
  • And much more…

Enjoying the show? Leave us a rating and review. Every comments helps! Drop in your IG handle so we can thank you personally!


Resources from this Episode:

Jorge Alguera (00:00:00): Maybe I should treat myself like a little kid because I don't know any better. I'm new learning, something new. So be gentle with yourself. It's like, no, it's okay. Like, you know, you didn't get that then, but not now we know better.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:00:15): Welcome to the student loan podcast here. You'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses and inspiring stories about paying off student loans where your hosts, Daphne, Vanessa and Shamil Rodriguez.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:00:34): Hi everyone. This is Shamil Rodriguez and I'm Daphne Vanessa. And we have an amazing guest for you today. Uh, someone who is not only going to share how he was able to go through school without taking student loans, a little bit of a twist here for the Siloam podcast, uh, but was able to do so. Um, while being in an undocumented status, um, Jorge Alguera comes from an interesting background originally from Costa Rica came to here to the United States and has not let that slow him down. One bit. He graduated, uh, with a marketing degree, uh, from Nassau and then once a CUNY and got his BA in Latin American and Latino studies and, um, not to stop there. Uh, he decided to become a part-time 1-L at CUNY Law right now just finished his first semester. Um, and he currently works full time as the CUNY's assistant director of the black male initiative. Uh, so there's a lot to cover in this, uh, this episode. I think it be an interesting twist for you in the audience and for the members that may have had a similar experience. Uh, I want you to connect to Jorge. He's going to be available after the fact he's going to share some of that information as well, uh, for some of the initiatives, because he's not just someone who is striving and thriving, but he's also giving back to the community. So, uh, without further ado Jorge, we turn it over to you.

Jorge Alguera (00:02:00): Thank you so much for having me Daphné. Shamil has been a really long time since I've seen you. And so, you know, through the magic of, um, virtual life now, um, I'm so glad to be here with you guys. And again, thank you. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Yeah,

Shamil Rodriguez (00:02:16): Of course. Jorge, tell us a little about yourself because I really want our listeners to hear about your journey. I really want them to really get that perspective.

Jorge Alguera (00:02:27): Sure, sure. So, um, like you said, I immigrated from Costa Rica. I was 11 years old when I, um, my family, my entire family decided to pick up actually my father, um, moved here, I think six months or so prior to us coming. And, uh, I guess I think my mom got a little antsy, uh, you know, you guys as parents understand having one child, but she had two, even though we're a just having to manage all of that on her own, um, she had little bit antsy and April 22nd, 1995, we made our way. Um, and we landed here, um, where I lived in Costa Rica. I remember our first house was, I am not, I'm not even using hyperbole. Here, our floors are literally just mud, just right. It was a makeshift house that my dad had. I had figured out how to put together.

Jorge Alguera (00:03:27): And, uh, even though his educational background is only to the third grade and my mom was, um, able to get through through high school. He, he was able to figure this out. Right. Um, and so we moved here and for me it was, it was like moving into Hollywood, right. It was oh my God, this is what the movies, uh, tell us about. Uh, we, you know, we were starting the spring here in the U S so to see bloom and all that kind of stuff, they was everything that, that the movies kind of put out there for us to, to envision or to wonder to imagine. And so, uh, you know, I came here, I skipped the the fifth grade, essentially because the school, the academic years, didn't, don't quite match from what it is here in from Costa Rica. And, um, I skipped fifth grade, uh, but the very next school year, my mom told the teacher like, no, I want him to do fifth grade because, uh, I just don't want him to miss out on anything.

Jorge Alguera (00:04:35): Little did she know though that I felt like everything that they were teaching at that time I had covered in third and fourth grade. And so, so I was able to move up and all of that while being in an, in a bilingual classroom, which was, uh, great for me. I still even contact with some of those classmates who were unquote taught me to read, as my teacher would call him. He was like, read this. And I'm like, well, I don't know. Um, and, uh, and so my classmates would sit there and literally word for word the potato and I'll repeat after them or whatever it was that we were reading. Uh, and then, you know, middle school, this, I landed, I should say, I landed in long Island, New York. And I went to school in Hempstead, which is a, an anecdote of itself. Right.

Jorge Alguera (00:05:27): Uh, and so went there didn't really know, and this is something that most undocumented or dreamer students, uh, kind of share in their experiences that we don't know what our, what being undocumented is until we're about 16 or so. Cause because we're, for various reasons, number one, you're trying to get working papers and you realize, Oh, mom, that I need a social security number. W what is it? And then you parents either flat out tell you, you don't have one or the other, Oh, I'll have to look for it. Don't worry about it. And they kind of like try to shield you for as long as you can, as they can. Um, so like, like many dreamers, right. I found out when I was, um, trying to get a, a job. And, um, and then from that point on, it was like, my story's a little zig-zaggy because I, I never wanted to go into college.

Jorge Alguera (00:06:34): I never wanted to get a degree. My dream was graduate high school joined the Marine Corps. Um, I graduated high school one year after nine 11, right. 2001. So, um, my, my goal, my via my dream, whatever you want to categorize it as well is to enlist in the Marine Corps and go and catch been in myself like that was, I literally said that to people. Um, but, but that was put on halt, obviously, uh, not having papers when I went, um, I was part of the Marine Corps, uh, sub recruiting station, uh, Poolee pro program there. And so they had us take, uh, take the practice, uh, entrance exam, the ASVAB. And, you know, I scored in the upper nineties and my, I remember the recruiter was so elated. He was like, Oh my God, dude. And to this day, I don't know how their compensation plan works, but it must have been some extra money coming his way or something.

Jorge Alguera (00:07:41): Cause he was so elated about my score more than my parents had ever been about any A that I had gotten in any test. And so, um, so when we sat down and I explained, Oh, I don't, you know, I don't have papers. Like he deflated. And then seeing him deflate it deflated me, um, graduated high school, top 10% of my class and immediately sunk into this dark depression of what do I do now? There's there's, you know, at that time opportunities for undocumented students were very few and far between, and even the thought of going to college was, you know, it wasn't met with no, you can't, no, you can't like you speak to school counselors and they would say, well, I'm sorry, you can't go. You can't go. Um, and so, and layer that with you can't get a job right. Or finding a job is going to be difficult.

Jorge Alguera (00:08:47): And so it took me, I think, almost a year out of high school to find something where I was, I became a stock boy for a, uh, for a grocery store in, in, in the North shore of long Island. And through that, I was, I started to get some money start saving and um, then my mother kept pushing me she was like, well, you're not going to sit around, not doing anything. So you're going to go to school. And I'm like, um, but I can't so like no go. And, and that's how my journey to, um, Nassau community college started my idea then still wanting to go into the Marine Corps was, I'll do something that can help me when I get into the Marine Corps. And I was like marketing the Marine Corps, more marketing, the Marine Corps needs more marketing. Okay. That's interesting. Um, and I mean, it goes to show you the, the, to an extent, the naivety that we have, even as 18, 19 year olds, um, but you know, just holding onto the dream.

Jorge Alguera (00:09:55): And, uh, so in 2001, it was the first time, the word dream act and green connected to undocumented students began to be uttered. And I remember, I think it was weeks after 2001, um, I was in the Marine Corps ROTC program in high in high school and our Major major that was running it brought in a New York times reporter and they interviewed us and it's like, well, what do you want to do? And I told them, expect you that, Hey, man, I want to listen to Marine Corps and I want to go catch Bin Laden. And, you know, if you Google, if you Google me, you'll find it in New York times, right? At 17, he wants to show, you know, American children that, that, you know, immigrants can also defend the land and so on and so forth. And so that was, that was the dream.

Jorge Alguera (00:10:54): Um, the dream act was, was being uttered and passed around left and right. And so the idea was go to school and by the time I'm done with school two year degree, then something surely would have happened. And, um, as a lot of your listeners who may have experienced or gone through the same journey as I have you realize that tuition is different for you. And especially if you're in a state that is not so much, you know, nowadays we call them sanctuary, but just stay to are more, uh, friendly to the immigrant student, and so what should have been a two year degree that costs somewhere between five and $8,000? It costs me $15,000 because I was paying double. Um, and, and all of that was my mom's and my own work. My mom was babysitting and I think at some point she gave that up and then started cleaning houses, mind you, my mom has a fashion degree.

Jorge Alguera (00:12:12): So, uh, she kind of put in, put that into practice here. And I think she was also a little bit jaded with, with having to stay up until two in the morning, which is one of my, my memories of Costa Rica hearing my mom's music because for her sewing room was, opposite mine. And I would just hear like all of this, all these late into the night and she was just sewing. Um, but I guess he, she, she didn't want that here. She wants to start a new like completely. And, um, so we were able to, to pay, um, our, my, my tuition, I, you know, I saved whatever I could, um, pay for books sometimes. Then, then you start kind of navigating those like, well, which books do I actually need to have in possession every day? Or which books can I go into the library and photocopy, or, uh, just sit there and use, cause you know, the, the core textbooks they get, they have a time limit.

Jorge Alguera (00:13:19): Pardon me? And so, um, yeah, so that's the source, some of the corners that, that were finagled to save some money. Um, and then there were some times that I couldn't keep where I couldn't go to school, um, every semester, so I would have to stop so that I can save up for the next time. And, um, yeah, I mean, my mom's encouragement was really what got me through that because, you know, the, the classes weren't difficult, um, at least they didn't feel out of this world. Um, and so, so once I was done with, with Nassau, so I was still undocumented. I was still working, um, as stock boy at, at the, at the grocery store, in the North shore of long Island. And my time in Nassau, I had become the president and vice president of student organizations there. I had, um, I had traveled, which was another, another no-no right they were

Jorge Alguera (00:14:31): Like you don't have papers, you can't travel. Where are you going? Um, so I had traveled to different conferences. Uh, one was in Atlanta, which is so much fun. I think that was the first one. And it was, it was so much fun and it built some more leadership. Thank you. Thanks to the Marine Corps ROTC and this involvement in these organizations. You know, I consider myself even to this day, I consider myself more of an introvert, but because of those positions and putting myself in those things, uh, it wasn't that I lost my, I lost the nerve or I, I broke out of the shell so much, but I learned how to navigate those things. And, um, it, it also allow me to not have to speak in front of people and understand that, you know, you don't have to have all the answers. You don't have to be an expert, you don't have to be having it all together and be, you know, tied up, buttoned up. Uh, but just getting up there and I, you know, you have statistics, I think, uh, public speaking is the number one fear of Americans, they still say. Um, so yeah, so

Shamil Rodriguez (00:15:42): I had a question there. I had a question on that one before we went that, I don't know if you have one, uh, from the start there, but I was curious to see, so, I mean, you just kind of glossed over the travel idea or the idea that you had to stop and start, um, you know, a school, right? A lot of people would say, well, if I can't go all the way through, I can't do it. But, um, I guess share with the audience, what, what was your mindset like to have to say, Oh, I'm on a path. It would be great if I could keep going straight through, but I actually have to make this decision right now because it just doesn't make sense. Like, um, yeah. Can you elaborate on that?

Jorge Alguera (00:16:21): Yeah. So, um, I have to say part of my, the struggle obviously was the financial, right. But when you start getting involved in these organizations, there are additional things that come up and, and you kind of get caught up in, in the culture. And because you're not walking around with like, Hey, I'm undocumented plastered across the chest. Even though today I wear the I'm an immigrant shirt, love it. (Daphné: Um, I need one), I'll get you the link. This is for a nonprofit that helps us. Yeah. But, um, a lot of it is you, you fall into these, um, maybe not too much crap, but you fall into these, um, ways of thinking is like, well, if my peers are able to lollygag certain things, maybe I could. Right. And so, because of those things, you start, um, you have to calibrate. And I think if there's one thing that I really want students, upcoming students of whichever, whether you're undocumented or your traditional student, or even an adult learner, right.

Jorge Alguera (00:17:31): Um, you have to recalibrate it every time, um, and see, you know, what am I doing? What am, what have my habits become that are not allowing me to, or that are propelling me forward or they're holding me back. And so having to start and stop, um, I mentioned my friends is because I saw that, Hey, you know, they withdrew from a class because they didn't like it or because it wasn't what they thought. And, uh, you know, like you in Costa Rica, you take a class, you finish that class right here. It's like, withdraw, wait a second. What is this magic? Um, so, so I had some of those were the classes like, yeah, there's some, there's no way. Um, but I do, I did have the most, I want to say the most justified withdrawal was, uh, there was a professor who was just after me for whatever reason. And he, you know, I would, I would show up sometimes I would have to come from work or whatever the case was. And I would show up a little bit late. And, uh, you know, I spoke to him at the beginning. I was like, look, this is my situation. I'm going to try it. I don't have a car, obviously that they're going to have a license. So I'm going to I'm depending on public transportation. And I'm going to try to be here as on-time, as I can, but just know that this was it,

Daphné Vanessa (00:19:00): This it's on long Island, right? The long Island bus system. Yes that's. Yeah. That's

Shamil Rodriguez (00:19:06): Yeah, because it's really more so just a system on paper,

Daphné Vanessa (00:19:11): But that shows your dedication, right. For, for anybody who is familiar with long Island, New York, um, the bus system is optional. I have to say like, uh, it's not consistent. Um, that just shows how much dedication you had to go to work and then still go to school, despite there being so many barriers. I'm super impressed.

Jorge Alguera (00:19:34): Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it was, it was rough. I mean, from my house to, to work, it was three hours on the bus. Uh, so sometimes I was able to read most times I couldn't cause I just get motion sick. And the other part of the time I was just so exhausted. I would knock out, I'll knock out. And luckily for me, my job, um, the last stop was the one that I needed to get off for work. So if I was knocked out the, the, it was the same driver, so it was like, Hey, what's up, man? You're here. Hello, thanks. And then, you know, I was all frazzled. I was like, just run out of the bus. Um, but just going back to that professor, he just, he just had it in for me. He accused me of cheating one time because I, my book bag was between my legs and I grabbed it with my hand and pushed it back.

Jorge Alguera (00:20:25): He was like, what are you reaching for? I know you're trying to reach for a cheat sheet. I'm like, I'm sorry, what? And, um, so at that point I had, I had gathered enough courage within myself to just take into this chair. I took him to the chair and I'm like, look like, I don't understand what the issue is and you, we kind of hashed it out. Um, but I ended up dropping the class nonetheless, and that's kind of like this, the start and stop because at the end, and this is so part of, part of my background is before working at the CUNY black male initiative, as the assistant director, I was working as an academic advisor and I was the project director of the black male initiative program at Queens college. And so when I would, whenever I would speak to the students and I'm like, look, um, I'm probably not going to be an academic advisor. Like, like you've known because I'm going to tell you stuff to your face.

Jorge Alguera (00:21:33): The first thing I want you to do, and I need you to do for your benefit is to stop listening to your friends, academic advice. I've, I've been a victim of it. And I'm sure you have to like, and I'll share some anecdotes that we've had students that come and say, Hey, the, again, it's like the last week of finals for them. So let me set the scene. The last week of finals, everybody's stressed, we have 600 students waiting to see 30 advisors and the kid comes in. He's like, Hey man, I want to drop all my classes. I'm like, um, it's the last week of finals, the add drop the withdrawal period. All of that happened three months ago. And they're like, no, no, that's not true because my friend who goes to this other CUNY school says that you can drop all the way into the, your last final.

Jorge Alguera (00:22:27): And I looked at them and I said, okay, so number one, your friend's not a student here, right? Yes. Okay. So they're wrong? Number two. Are they an academic advisor? No, that's two strikes. So I'm sorry. You're going to have to go and start, you know, cramming for your finals because it's not like you have to finish this and I'm going to take this to the vice president. Then I'm going to go ahead. This is policy. And so, um, all of that to say is, is, um, you know, we fall victims of some bad friendship advice academically, and that, that also tends to stumble. Um, but at the same time, uh, the, the, the advice that I want students, if there are students, if they're lifting are still students, um, you know, make sure that you're visiting your academic advisor at least three times a semester.

Jorge Alguera (00:23:27): A lot of people say, Oh, just at the beginning, at the end. No, no, no. Do a midterm check, right? Like figure how these things are. Um, some people I've, I've heard, crazy excuses like, well, they're always so busy. I don't want to bother them. And I say, Oh, that's interesting. Well, let me ask you if you're in the restaurant and they're really busy, do you not ask your waiter, or your waitress for food or water or drinks, or like, no, that's their job. I'm like, exactly, exactly. That's what these academic advisors are there for. That is their job. They are literally paid to talk to you about your academics. That simple.

Daphné Vanessa (00:24:05): Such great feedback for, for student listeners. Um, I really want to, first of all, thank you for sharing your story and perseverance, um, for how you are able to pay for school, um, without taking out any, any debt. That's fantastic. What advice do you have for students that are in a situation that doesn't allow for them to give their full academic, um, best effort? And you can say while working, did you have that challenge? And if so, how did you navigate that?

Jorge Alguera (00:24:40): Yeah, especially this semester, this semester, really? Um, that was the biggest challenge. I mean, for me, I'm, I'm fortunate enough to work from home and, you know, we're, we're able to go to school online and that cuts out having to be in a cramped, MTA, train, bus, whatever have you. And it allows for some, some sanity in that sense. However, if you sit for 16 hours a day in front of a computer, and when your muscles become tired, you start hunching over your back, starts hurting. You start getting all these. Um, so, so basically that's the first thing I'm making sure if, um, as, as you're starting to feel physically drained, make sure that you're taking, even if it's a five minute walk, if that's going to change your, your, um, just when you're looking at for, for a certain amount of time and, you know, I've set it up where I have my goddaughter and my niece and my mom and, and, and my girlfriend right in front of me so that I can, like, this is my why.

Jorge Alguera (00:25:50): Right. They be telling you your why, but after a while, it's like, I love you all, but I can't just kind of look at you for, for the next 20 minutes. Um, and, and just to go back to your question, how do you, you know, you can't give your, your all academic all, um, it's, it's a little bit harder now in the winter or the spring semester, starting in the winter. But I would say if, if you're able to take that book, take that chapter, take that whatever it is that you need to read and highlight, or, or dissect, take it outside, take it to where you can get some fresh air, um, little access is you're not going to, especially in the middle of the semester, you're not going to radically change the way you study. You know, you, you might hear some, somebody that's like, look, what you should do is buy forty six different highlighters. And then when you know that this one particular issue, you highlighted yellow for the rest of life. When you see yellow, you know, that it's an issue. And when you see green, you know, that it is a fact or something that you need to remember and write in the margins.

Daphné Vanessa (00:27:01): That's what I did in law school, by the way (Shamil: I'm looking at Daphné here).

Jorge Alguera (00:27:08): It does, it does. It really does, um, creating, creating, uh, I, I created, I don't know if you see it, but the one of my professors created this Excel sheet. I don't know if you're able to see it. It's an Excel sheet. Uh, yeah. Well, this was for our, for our, uh, final, but it's sort of crim law finals. Like, you know, you have your defendant, put the name and then the crime, and then, you know, whether there's New York law or if it's model penal code, or if it's common law, et cetera. And so, um, you know, you're, you're used to seeing everything in a bunch and it helps you kind of pull it out and, and have it separate, right? Like put it in a different box so that when you look at it, you're not like what's all this other information. It's like, well, this is what you're focusing on right now.

Jorge Alguera (00:28:01): Nice, nice. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Breaking, breaking the big, big chunks of information down into a little bit more manageable bits. Uh, I remember there a, I think he's a British philosopher. Um, he, he wrote a book and he had to talk about love and how to teach your partner to love each other. And one of the things is like, why? Like he said, why are we okay with talking to a kid about something when they do something wrong? Why can we say, Oh, sweetie, no, like, look, this is why you don't do this. But if your partner does the same thing, it's like, how dare you? What is wrong with you? Right. It's like, if we treated our significant others as if they were kids, if they didn't know any better than they might be more receptive to the message. And I took that to say, maybe I should treat myself like a little kid, because I don't know any better. I'm learning something new. Wow. So be gentle with yourself. It's like, no, it's okay. Like, you know, you didn't get that then, but not now we know better. So those are some of the hacks that are kind of, wow.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:29:12): (Daphné: That was powerful, very powerful). That was well said. Um, a follow up question on, on, cause because you were an administrator, uh, are, you still are with CUNY, but you were at different campuses. Uh, and you've really involved yourself that way. I'd like to, for you to share your thoughts, then at least on the cost of education, because now you're seeing it from a virtual perspective, uh, and just do the loads in general. Right. So you've seen the, and you've been a part of that whole campus experience where you were Nassau getting involved in different organizations and in Queens who were doing the same thing. And then in CUNY, you know, so what's, uh, as an administrator, right. As an administrator, I think it'd be interesting to hear your perspective on the cost of education and, and the student loan industry in general. Yeah.

Jorge Alguera (00:30:01): Well, luckily if you want to look at it that way, I've, I've just not been able to take out loans. Um, it's kinda like, like your parents are like, you can't date until you're 46. I all right. Fine. I guess. Um, so, so I don't have the experience or, you know, w when, when my friends say, Oh, you know, uh, abolish Fannie Mae, or, you know, clear out student loans, I'm like, yes. And a lot of people are like, well, that's not fair because some people already paid off their loans, like, but congratulations to them for having either the resources or having the ability to figure out how to pay those. That's fantastic. Um, it doesn't mean that the way, first of all, the cost of living is different nowadays, um, jobs as specifically in a pandemic, right. We know where we are with record setting numbers of unemployment.

Jorge Alguera (00:31:01): So, so the, the, the educational field is not immune to those things either. Right. Um, we're struggling as students to figure out how to manage being, sitting in class, taking in things that do some might be to some might be more difficult, but guess what? Now we're also tasking, uh, elderly, uh, more, more seasoned faculty and staff who, you know, like again, I, I, I bring it back to being gentle with people being gentle with, with yourself. It's like, well, imagine you're 70, 80 year old professor was your grandma. You would sit there and explain how to take a selfie. Right? Well, let's have some patience in how to mute themselves and how to, um, call on somebody when they have their hand raised. So on and so forth. This, this kind of have that attitude as well. And that's on the student, the student side now on the administrative perspective, or it ranges, right.

Jorge Alguera (00:32:20): Some, some professional, some positions are student facing. So you have to interact with students on a daily basis. Now, I've, I still keep in contact with my colleagues at Queens college. And they have where before they would see eight to 10 students a day, they are now seeing 15, 20 students a day. Right. So, yeah. (Shamil: Although why?) Number one, because, um, your, your zoom meeting is now 30 minutes, or like, we want to, we want to cut down on screen time for the students. Okay. But that's an administrator, you're doubling it. Right. And so, um, so they're cutting down the, the meetings because now students receive a lot of the information ahead of time via email, and you tell the student, Hey, when you come to the zoom meeting, just bring this so that I can go over it with you and, you know, you'll have it, and we'll do a share screen, et cetera. And if you have questions, we can clear those out. Um, so, so they're seeing more students because of that. And at the same time, students are so uncertain as to how to reach out to other offices. Right. I've one of the testimonies I get from my colleagues most often is a student saying, I am so thankful that you picked up the phone and spoke to me because you're the first person I've actually spoken to this semester.

Jorge Alguera (00:33:59): Right. And so it's, it's, it's I think, you know, yes, it's a public health pandemic. It's a, they sit in economic downturn. Yes. But ultimately the way we get through all of this is to, can we have to continue to have, um, just empathy and, and being courteous to one another, to understand that we're all right. Like, what's, what's that quote, um, be kind to everyone you meet is fighting a battle, you know, nothing of, um, and so, so we need to kind of keep that through that end. Um, the value of education and your question. Um, I think number one, um, universities should be really careful as a whole to bring up a, an increase in intuition, right? Because to the normal student is, Hey, I'm getting less because now I'm not seeing my, my friends. It's not even, I'm not seeing my professor.

Jorge Alguera (00:35:13): I'm not hanging out with my friends. I'm not hanging out with my friends in the cafeteria. I can't go to the stroll show. I can't go to this. I can't, you know, I'm getting so much less of the college experience. And so, so that's what we have to calibrate. What's the value system as the student is seeing a university as a path to a job that because of the pandemic that may or may not be there at the end, at the end of it all. And so, um, I mean, you need did a fantastic job of purchasing. I can't even tell you the number, but it was tens of thousands of Chromebooks and iPads to distribute to their students because they knew that a lot didn't have a computer at home. Right. And then, um, there was, this community of educators are like, Hey, you don't have internet called this, this company.

Jorge Alguera (00:36:13): They'll give you internet for free three months because originally, right. Oh, this would be over in three weeks, two months, it's all taken care of. And so a lot of students were able to kind of take advantage of that. Um, I don't think, I don't think the value of education has lessened. Um, is this unfortunately, or fortunately if you're a student, unfortunately for the administrators, um, w would, you'd have to go a little bit harder. We have to figure out, um, how to make those room meeting, not as boring. And I give all the credit to my professors who, um, some better than others were able to include, uh, gifts and pictures and means onto the presentation. So you're, they're laughing, but you're like, Oh yeah, that's, that's important. You know, like someone's getting the cat, let me take that note down. Um, and so, um, a lot of the money that is now being circulated within higher education is to reinforce and retrain the faculty.

Jorge Alguera (00:37:23): Um, I, at the same time, I will say, uh, you know, if you're, if you're a tenure faculty, who has put in your 20 years in, in, in academia, I think you should retire. Um, and that's no shade. This I'm not trying to come off as someone, uh, like, like an ageist comment it's just, you know, we have faculty world renowned. Yes, I get it. But your salary can pay for three upcoming, um, professors who number one have the energy to engage with a student. There are just a smart, right. If they haven't published 600 million books, because they don't have that luxury, you're struggling from, from paycheck to paycheck. But it, you know, if you're a tenure, if you're a tenure faculty over 20 years needs to consider retiring so that we can, um, bring up the, the new, the new generation of educators who are going to connect with the students and, and, you know, get us to the next level.

Jorge Alguera (00:38:29): I just, just to kind of like go back. I don't think the value of education has lessened. Um, I think people might feel, um, a little bit attacked. All right. Your pocket is attacked because number one, sure. The price might go up, but my wallet is emptier now than it was then. And so how dare, you, and I've always, I've always maintained. Um, and I don't mean this in a pejorative way, but we need to always, uh, look at the issues from the lowest common denominator who has the least resource, who has the least access, to getting the education and then build up from there. I don't think trickled, I don't think trickled down education works either.

Daphné Vanessa (00:39:21): Yeah, no, that, that's, that's very interesting. Um, so two comments, first question is looking at the other side of the professors, retiring argument. Do you think there's value to having, um, elders teaching the younger generation and then secondly, okay. Awesome. And then secondly, I want to talk about, um, what do you think some unique ways that are that universities colleges can, um, allow for students to get work experience so that they have a pipeline into a job when they graduate, right. How are people going to get experience, um, in this day and age?

Jorge Alguera (00:40:11): So, um, so to answer, and again, I want to also tell, let people know I don't have all the answers, right. And, um, this is, this is just more me looking at, uh, things from an administrative perspective and seeing how there are, there are just as there are amazing tenured professors, who've been there for 20, 30 years, because that's their passion. We have the opposite, right? We have Thursday. I was like, Hey, I'm getting paid. Like I'm getting paid. My job is to research. Not to teach ya'll. And that's another thing, right? Like a lot of these professors are researchers, not teachers. And so the, the, the people skills that is required and those necessary for not engaging a class or even a student one-on-one might be lacking. Not to your point though. Um, yes, there, there definitely is a benefit for, um, an older generation professor.

Jorge Alguera (00:41:17): It needs the upcoming. However, I've noticed that a student is more likely to engage with material when it's given to them in a medium or in a format that they are comfortable with, right. Academia has not been called or dubbed the ivory tower for no reason, or, I mean, there's a lot of looking at people down their nose type thing. And so a lot of, a lot of, um, elder professors or tenure professors, um, you know, you're just stuck. This is the way I've done it for 40 years. Why should I change? Right. Not understanding that the new generation needs that change. Um, but those, all the professors, why can't, why can't they, you know, once you have your pension, why can't they be the adjuncts, right. (Daphné: Oh, wow). Why can't they, why can't they have the part-time job teaching less classes. And Hey, you want to still impart some of your knowledge to the upcoming professors, then why not set up some, somewhat of a, uh, mentoring, uh, system for the tenure professors in economics and law and whatever, have you who then bring up these upcoming professors so that, you know, we can continue to circle and cycle their, their knowledge base.

Jorge Alguera (00:42:42): Right. So that's the first one, um, unique ways of work experience. Um, personally, I've always been of the idea of, of the, I guess my thoughts have been if I'm working with students and they have no, how and things that I struggle with, I need to hire them because number one is it's helping me. And I was like, Oh, I don't have to worry about social media. Of course, you, you, you monitor them. I was like, Hey, you know, we need a campaign on this, get something to me by next week, because we needed out the next week. Um, but you know, there'll be a elated, I'm getting paid to play on social media, but as excuse me, as we see technology and as we see society, and as you see the workplace change and move, we understand that some of that they're going to need, uh, somewhat, somewhat of an experience, right?

Jorge Alguera (00:43:52): Like, Oh, you were a junior developer. Like one of the things that you see a lot of it's like, well, we need a junior developer that has a master's in this and that it was like, and you get paid $15 an hour. Right. And then you get there and it's like, you need seven years of experiences. Like what, I'm a junior developer. Right. What do you mean? Uh, and so, so these are ways you, if you want to call them hacks, that could be hacks of, of just hiring a student to do these little things. And then, and then you can mentor them, uh, as well as like, well, how do you, how would you put this in, in your resume? Like, I've had a couple of students who are like, well, you, you created a whole new communication system for this particular program. I know was like, Oh, you created a communication system.

Jorge Alguera (00:44:43): Tell me more. Um, so it's little tasks, little tasks that you can end, you know, a lot, a lot of administrative, well, we don't have the money for those. Like, I'm sorry, you don't have the money for a $500 stipend for the semester for one or two students. Like, um, like your department, number one that broke or that sheet there's there's, there are ways, um, you know, I remember I've read, excuse me, from, from one of your podcasts, you were talking about the different ways that a student can finance their own education, go to the advancement and go to this and go to that. Right. Um, as an administrator, you can do the same thing. Why, why are we working in silos? Why, why can't I as this, as a student affairs, um, professional go to the academic side and he was like, Hey, look, I need a student with this technology know-how.

Jorge Alguera (00:45:42): I can write the job description for you? I just need you to go to, you know, the provost, or I don't need you to go to the Dean of this or the Dean of that. Ask him for you. You're going to tell me that the provost is going to say $5,000 to hire five students for five years. No, like let's talk about ROI for a second. Right. So I think that those are just some of the ways and it goes, and I think they're both kind of tied together, right? Like if, if an older generation professor who's, who knows that, that a provost or certain administration has always been tight with their purse strings, then, and then you have a younger ones, like, well, I don't care if they say no, I'm still going to try it. Right. This is, this is why they both kind of circulate it and why we need to open the door to both.

Daphné Vanessa (00:46:40): Uh, no, I really love your idea on, um, students and university administrators working together and sort of working in silos. Um, more conversation needs to happen around that. So we'll definitely continue to have that conversation hopefully, and spread your idea. Thank you, Jorge. Well, thank you.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:47:00): Yeah, no, I think that's a really, really good point and I think a good place to call it. What I want to do though. Um, Jorge is for you to elaborate a little bit more about your impact with, uh, BMI. Uh, just kinda explain a little bit more of that, what that is and what the, uh, what the end goal is and how you guys are actually trying to implement the black male initiative. Um, so that listeners can get it. I think this is a different episode and I, and I'm happy that we're going into some of these topics, because these all play a role in our student loans, right? These are all aspects of our student loans. And so why not learn about where the money's going?

Jorge Alguera (00:47:38): So, um, so the CUNY black male initiative has been around for 15 years, and it's the, the star child, if you will, of the city council of New York, where there's a task force and they, they came up with nine specific, um, bullet points, if you want to call them that, that men of color in particular needed to be supported in, in order to graduate and be encouraged through higher education. And so what we have done is we've created a model of peer to peer mentoring. And so we pair a junior or senior with a freshman or sophomore, and it's a lot of this, right? Like, uh, the elder statesmen saying statesmen saying something like, like what you're your podcast is like, Hey, um, so your financial aid did come through. Not yet. Why not? Oh, I didn't even know where the financial aid office is.

Jorge Alguera (00:48:38): Don't worry. And us as administrators, we trained the mentors to say like, look, these are the most common questions, the most common obstacles. And don't just tell the students like, Hey, go here and go there. Like, they're not your pet, they're not your puppet. Right? Like, create the relationship where be a friend, be, be it be a person that is like, Aw, man, I, I hear you that, you know, this, this office is usually difficult, but I'm gonna tell you a trick. You go and speak to this particular person, or you greet them this way. Uh, and, and these little College life hacks. Yeah. Navigating politics. And so that's just one of the things. And then we have, um, academic enhancements. So because the culture of every CUNY campus, it's a little bit different, right? Whether if you're in Queens, you might have a campus, but if you're in the city, you just have a vertical campus of, they call it.

Jorge Alguera (00:49:40): And so we, we know that space is an issue for some campuses. And so we have academic enhancements that look differently. So it might be a lending library, right. Uh, graduating mentors may have left their books behind and, you know, they can use that in order to pick up on, on certain things like, like myself, right. Instead of having to go to the library and try to, you know, write and write and take my notes in two hours, I can actually take this home and use this for my advantage. There's tutoring. Um, one of the things that I worked on is kind of rebranding tutoring to coaching academic coaching, uh, because tutoring has this connotation of a deficit type learning, whether coaching and coaching is more of like, well, I'm trying to improve, I'm trying to get better. And, and so we've used that there's um, so academic enhancement, peer to peer mentoring and there's social emotional component of where we have things like a barbershop or a beauty shop for, for ladies to sit and talk about the issues of the day.

Jorge Alguera (00:50:50): But what what's, what's, um, holding you back, what's affecting you. What's, triggering you, if you want to use that right now, that's affecting you so that you're not able to Excel back to your question. Daphné how you are not able to be your best academic self. Um, and so you kind of have, um, those conversations. A lot of times, the, the director or the administrator of that school will bring in a social worker, we'll bring in a mental health counselor and so on. And so we try to look at what possible, um, academic obstacles there might be in, um, in, in a student's life and look at it holistically. And then we do that with the support of the city council. We ourselves have a, an advisory committee for the central office, and we encourage every single campus to have their own, but we have our own advisory committee at this point.

Jorge Alguera (00:51:57): I think we're up to 14. Um, but we have, we have, um, let's see, we have former super bowl champion, Carl Banks from New York giants. We have former executive, uh, layers of division, vice pres, uh, president, excuse me, Billy Hunter. We have Dr. Jeff Gardere as one of our, um, as one of our committee members. And we have people from like the pink and Pinkerton foundations we have from M and T bank. And we have this amalgamation of talent and, and, and support and the allies that, uh, we're just trying to figure out or bring other ways of, uh, funding and connecting students to number one more, more, uh, opportunities and bring, bring more money to the education, uh, and in support of their education as well. Very good. So, yeah. And, and, um, unlike the name calls right, as the CUNY black male initiative, but, um, it's open to any student, no matter race, color, creed, um, that is in, in, in CUNY, right.

Jorge Alguera (00:53:07): And then on top of that, we have layers of support for HSC or GED students. So you have students who, you know, could not finish out their high school diploma. Then we have some projects for that we also have for re-entry population as well. So you had been previously incarcerated and you're trying to, um, join the education, uh, or finish your education. Then there's there supporting that fence. And we also have, um, a program at the CUNY pipeline it's called the CUNY pipeline to justice, which is at the CUNY law school, uh, which kind of helps diversify the professional. Right. We know what the lawyer profession looks like. And so we're trying to diversify the profession in a two-step program. The first part is all else that, um, poaching it's, it's amazing. I went through it. I, I honestly would not be in law school if not for that program, because it's intense.

Jorge Alguera (00:54:05): You're in there almost as a viewer and law student, um, except usually going hard for the LSAT. And then they have mock law classes and they prepare you for what, what an IRAC would be, or what a CRAC so on and so forth. And then, and the last one is at the Sophie Davis school of medicine and the S the, the pillars of academic enhancement, peer to peer mentoring and, um, social, emotional programming, those two main things that every single one we say should have, but it's more like, like, if you want to continue to get funding, you must have these kinds of things, because we know that these are the,

Daphné Vanessa (00:54:45): It has, I know a number of Sophie Davis graduates who are successful working doctors with, you know, ex top, top residencies. Um, so

Jorge Alguera (00:54:55): That, that program, by the way, if you allow me some latitude here, that program is I call it the little Wakanda. They, because it's, it's a program when you get accepted as an undergraduate freshmen, right? Your paired with a sophomore, the sophomore, with a junior, the junior, with a senior, the senior, with a first year resident, the first year resident. And it's, it's like, there's this cascading effect of mentoring. And, and at the end you have just, they start hooding themselves. It's like, Oh, you're graduating, I'll hood you. Oh, you're graduating. And it goes that way. And it's like, we, we visit our, our campus projects every two years. And when I started last year, we'd had to go visit and I was just blown away because I've never seen alumni engagement to that. Like that degree. It was just amazing. It was, it was a Tuesday night. It was like, Oh yeah, let's, let's talk about this. Let's look about, you know,

Daphné Vanessa (00:56:01): Fantastic doctors, uh, really Sophie Davis program. Um, I'm very impressed. I'm not in the medical profession, but as a nonmedical person, I am impressed. Um, yeah. So I actually quickly, if you're okay with it, want to ask you a question about enrollment, the decline in what administrators are focused on these

Speaker 5 (00:56:24): Days in that space. Right. Um,

Jorge Alguera (00:56:29): So I'm not on the enrollment side of, of, of the house. So, um, for better or for worse, um, I'm a little bit isolated from it. I will tell you this, it varies per campus, right? Because my Alma mater Queens college, they hit their numbers in enrollment, new freshmen, boom transfers. We got that. Right. But if you go to two, um, other, like, I think Hunter had a hard time and Baruch had a hard time getting their numbers. And so I think a couple of things play a factor in this number one, obviously work, right? If, if you're a student and not only are you not working, but your parents lost their job as well, then school is going to, they're going to be in the back burner. And these are things that we, because the student might not want to share, or, you know, this is a private life.

Jorge Alguera (00:57:35): So us as a public institution, we can't go and say, Hey, why are you not coming back to the school? Are you broke? Are you sick? What's going on? But, um, so, so that's number one, number two, it's those who are working and, and continue to have a heightened, um, amount of hours, or because of that, they're, they're able to move up in their own job. And I'm like, Oh, so instead of $15 an hour, I'm going to make 20 because I'm going to do this and they start seeing more money. So it was like, well, I'm already making this much without a degree. Why do I need to do those things? So, um, it, this is the game that a lot of, a lot of administrators kind of play with. Um, I mean, if you really want to have a, a deep conversation on enrollment and enrollment or enrollment management, I'm happy to connect you to one of my, um, essentially my former boss, but he's somewhat of a mentor to me as well, because I'm as Richard Alvarez. And he's the vice person on enrollment management at Queens college, who prior to that was at Pace. And so he he's work.

Jorge Alguera (00:58:54): I'm not even going to say how many years, because I don't want to answer it. Like when you told people how old I was. Um, and so that bill, um, yeah, for me, I'm more on the student affairs student activities side of the house, uh, and trying to just make sure that students feel connected still, who maybe not figuratively, but, um, or, or literally connected to the, with just feel that they're engaged, who do their campus and that they're engaged in their, um, studies. And also what's, I, I've always maintained like, look, if you're going to school and you're paying your tuition and you go to class and you go home, you're not getting what you're paying for, because what you pay for is the network that you build, your tuition is access to networks and, and you need to be out there and just, you know, say hello to everybody.

Jorge Alguera (00:59:54): My, when I was graduating Queens college, the Dean of students at that time, no, the director of student affairs at that time told me, look, I always tell students, you need to make two friends while you're an undergrad, another student, and then an administrator, because another student keeps you engaged, keeps you connected to the campus. Hey, let's go to this activity. Yeah. Let's go to this party. And then an administrator is going to tell you what it is, right? Like, it's going to say like, no, don't do this dumb. Let me tell you why you shouldn't do this. Right. And when you, and then that's how you create mentoring pairs or mentoring relationships. So that's, that's kind of my focus on, on, on what I'm doing now and what I hope my, the rest of my career takes me.

Daphné Vanessa (01:00:41): I really appreciated your thoughts, your story. Um, the engagement piece about keeping students connected, even in these difficult times is so important. And I'm happy that you were able to share that with us in the audience. So Shamil, do you have any question?

Shamil Rodriguez (01:01:00): No, no. This was a great, a great episode. Um, I think that this sharing your story of persistence, I think some of our listeners can take away the takeaways for me, at least where the persistence, um, you know, not willing to take no for an answer, regardless of what life was throwing your way. Um, I was knocked out of the park for me. How about your dad? What was the take away?

Daphné Vanessa (01:01:26): Oh, man, I think you, I think you stole mine, but I'm going to have to come up with two other ones now. Um, so I know I echo the, the perseverance to me was the most touching. I think it's so humbling because like lot, I come from immigrant parents as well. But, um, you realize that everybody's journey to America is different and the dedication that we have as immigrants to reach a goal when, um, you know, maybe it's very easy to complain is admirable. And I think you just took it to the next level with the like working, despite the undocumented status, despite, um, you know, people telling, you NO, by the way, people, people people's opinions of others can be a mental hurdle and you didn't let that happen. So that was admirable. What a fantastic example you are to your students. And I think they are blessed to have you, we're blessed to have you on the podcast.

Jorge Alguera (01:02:28): Um, and, and I, I want to in, in, in, in the spirit of your podcast, right, the student loan and how to pay for school and so on and so forth. Um, I attend, I think it's a little bit easier. A lot of people are like, Oh, pandemic has ruined everything. I'm like, listen, I was able to attend a panel in California, which I would've never been able to. Right. Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (01:02:49): Yeah. I love that. I love the mindset, like so powerful.

Jorge Alguera (01:02:53): Yeah. And so, because of, because of that panel, um, uh, another financing, your school hack for whether you're undocumented or dreamer, or you were born here and you, and whatever the case might be. One of the, the takeaways that I got from the panel was, you know, go to the big name schools through their financial aid page, to the scholarship page. Right. And then look for external scholarships and you click on those and now they're open because it's no longer, you no longer have to be affiliated with that school because it's an external partnership. Um, it just may not have been listed in your school because number one, they didn't know. Right. We're not perfect. Number two, they're like, well, this is in California. Why should I put it in my New York school? But as you read the descriptions, it doesn't say you must. I mean, some do, but some of them was like, you must be a resident of, whatever. And so I encourage anyone who's listening to this podcast to do that kind of investigative work for yourself. And ultimately if you can't take advantage of it, pass it on to, to the next person. Right.

Daphné Vanessa (01:04:04): Awesome. Thank you so much Jorge, I really appreciated having you on

Jorge Alguera (01:04:07): Thank you for having me and actually,

Daphné Vanessa (01:04:10): How can our listeners get in touch with you?

Jorge Alguera (01:04:13): Sure. So, um, they can, they can email me directly if they want. It's my first name, Jorge, J O R G E dot. My last name. I will get A L G U E R A That's my work email. Um, fortunately, or unfortunately I'm always like on the loop with that, even though on the weekends, I muted a little bit, but you can reach me there. Um, you can email CUNYBMI@CUNY.EDU as well, you can follow us on social media at this point. I'm the one managing social media. So, um, you can, you can follow there too at, @CUNYBMI or one word lowercase and, um, on YouTube also, I wanted to take the time and mentioned, we had a town hall series that ran from may until December and that's all on YouTube. So if you go to, we have a playlist of all the town halls and they, they range the conversations range from what was happening with, uh, when George Floyd was, was murdered all the way to music and activism and mental health and all of that. So, um, that's how they can get in contact with me, or if they want to learn more about CUNY BMI,

Daphné Vanessa (01:05:34): I encourage everybody to reach out to Jorge as soon as you can. He is so amazing and an open book really. Um, and thank you for being on.

Jorge Alguera (01:05:45): No, thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me

Shamil Rodriguez (01:05:49): For more information about this episode, visit the, the student loan forward slash episode nine.

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