As an accounting major, Jonathan Pasatieri appreciated the small classes, updated computer labs and Manhattan internships offered by Hofstra University. But as he wrapped up his first semester there, he realized he would accumulate thousands of dollars in debt before he could even think about graduate school.

Pasatieri followed the path of many students struggling to pay private college bills: He transferred to a state school. Last week, he started at SUNY Old Westbury. He's a commuter, as he was at Hofstra, but his $15,500 annual tuition is about half of what he paid before.

Malcolm Zamor spent a semester at Dowling College, living on campus. Zamor, 18, of Rockland County, also just transferred to Old Westbury where his tuition, room and board will cost about $18,000 less a year.

"I need to save my parents' money," he said.

Alexis Garcia, 20, of Baldwin, has transferred twice. She started at SUNY Cortland but found housing and other costs would add up to more than $60,000 over four years.

Garcia, who wants to teach elementary school, spent the next three semesters at Nassau Community College. She considered finishing her bachelor's degree at Queens or Hunter colleges, both city public campuses. But she felt Long Island Rail Road fares were "ridiculous." She just enrolled at Old Westbury.

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Garcia said she didn't feel right spending a lot of money when her younger brothers are a few years from college.

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