On February 25, more than 400 students traveled to the New York State Senate in Albany for Higher Education Action Day to call upon the state Legislature to fight for increased investment in higher education. As a collective voice representing students at public post-secondary institutions across the state, they urged senate and assembly members to not only increase funding for both State and City Universities of New York but implement a Maintenance of Effort as well as a tuition freeze.
These actions come in response to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget, released in December, that proposed a shift of 30% of the cost of City University of New York (CUNY) 4-year senior colleges onto New York City. This budget also comes with proposed tuition hikes for the next five years.
With the budget deadline approaching, members of the City University of New York’s University Student Senate (USS) and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) led students from across the state in a rally and march into Legislative Office Building briefly before dispersing into groups to meet with legislators individually. These meetings aimed to reject points of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget while also introducing the Student and Faculty Higher Education Platform.
The platform addresses eight points, mainly centered on financial issues of schools and students throughout the state of New York. Among these were the key aspects regarding public investment in CUNY and SUNY, the rejection of annual tuition hikes and a rejection to the proposal to shift 30% of the cost of CUNY 4-year senior colleges onto New York City.
Since 2008, CUNY and SUNY have lost a total of $1.5 billion in State funding. The Executive Budget holds state spending to less than 1% for both systems, and in the new move, would require New York City to take over 30% of the cost of CUNY’s 4-year senior colleges. This 30% cost amounts to a shift of $485 million in state-funded costs for senior colleges onto the New York City budget.
The decrease in funding follows SUNY2020, the State’s “rational tuition” law which has raised tuition by $1,500 over the last five years. Tuition is now $6,470 at SUNY and $6,330 at CUNY, an increase of 30% since 2011.
With increasing budget cuts, it is believed that further tuition increases to offset costs will be inevitable. With these concerns compounding themselves on the already pre-existing matters on the agenda, NYPIRG and USS struck out and collected 28,000 signatures from SUNY and CUNY students calling for a tuition freeze.
“It is time for Albany to stand with the 550,000 students of CUNY and their families and affirm New York’s investment in their future. It is time for all political leaders involved to assure a quality higher education. At CUNY that means no tuition increases for students, and a new and fair contract for the faculty and staff. New York can remain a national leader of accessible and affordable public higher education if the Legislature continues to stand up for students,” said Joseph Awadjie, USS chairperson & CUNY trustee.
With the budget deadline creeping closer, faculty and student organizations alike continue to lobby assembly members in hopes that the state legislature will choose to invest in the future by investing in higher education.