Story Courtesy Vinny Pezzimenti, SUNY JCC
JAMESTOWN, NY – Andrew Bungar walked a lot growing up. To Walmart. The bank. The post office. Anywhere he needed to go really.
His father John, who is deaf and blind, was often by his side. Andrew couldn’t drive, so they walked together.
The son of divorced parents, Andrew was his dad’s eyes and ears. He still is.
It’s no surprise that when it came time to choose a college, Andrew didn’t want to move hours away from his father and their home in Hermitage, Pa. He also didn’t want to go into debt paying for school.
“I have to help take care of my dad,” he said.
SUNY Jamestown Community College was the perfect choice. On the Jamestown, N.Y. campus, Bungar, a former wrestling standout at Hickory High School, could compete at the junior college level for the Jayhawks, study physical education, plus be a short two-hour drive from his father in Mercer County.
What helped seal the deal for Bungar was a tuition grant that JCC offers to out-of-state students who live on campus. Students receiving the grant pay the same amount as a New York state resident for tuition and housing. That is a savings of $2,600 each semester.
“It helped me a lot,” Bungar said. “It helps make the first two years of college really cheap for me in a way. Other schools were a ton of money. I was going to have to pull money from loans. That was something I really didn’t want to do because I didn’t want to have to pay a ton of money back.”
Bungar, a freshman this year, considered in-state schools Gannon and Mercyhurst, but it was more than he wanted to spend on college.
The out-of-state tuition grant was launched by JCC in the fall of 2018 in part to give nearby Pennsylvania students, like Bungar, greater access to an affordable college education. As it stands, there are no accredited community colleges in the Northwest Pennsylvania region and the closest among the state’s 14 public community colleges is in suburban Pittsburgh.
“In the three years the grant has been in place we’ve seen more Pennsylvania and out-of-state students in general attend JCC and live on campus,” said Tyler Silagyi, JCC’s director of residence life. “There was definitely a need in our neighboring counties across the border that we are fulfilling.”
Pennsylvania students residing in Warren, Forest, Potter, McKean, Elk, or Cameron counties, or the cities of Corry or North East may also be eligible for JCC’s Unified Student Assistance (USA) Scholarship, which covers the entire New York state cost of tuition (minus PEL, TAP, and PHEAA aid). To qualify, students must be first-time, full-time freshmen applicants who ranked in the top 20% of their graduating class.
At JCC, Bungar lives in Hillside Suites West, one of three residence halls on campus that offer apartment-style housing. Each suite features private, fully furnished bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, dining area, and two full bathrooms. Wifi, cable, utilities, parking, and laundry facilities are also included.
In addition to the grant, all students living in the residence halls receive a basic meal plan as a part of their housing package.
“I like my roommates a lot,” Bungar said. “The wrestling season was an enjoyable moment. I like going to the lunchroom and being able to talk with different people.”
Like many JCC students, Bungar plans to transfer to a four-year university. He would like to continue to wrestle and has aspirations of becoming a physical education teacher and coach after college.
When COVID quarantine rules have loosened, Bungar returns home every other weekend to visit his dad, who has a rare genetic disorder called Usher syndrome that caused his deafness and loss of sight.
“It was kind of a good life experience for me,” Bungar said of his formative years with his father. “It was challenging but I think it will help shape me better in the future.”