By Ashley Oliver
After five straight years of annual tuition hikes which were slated to end this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has authorized CUNY officials to raise tuition yet again in his proposed budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Frustrated CUNY students and faculty expressed cynicism at the mounting tuition costs and the fading promise of affordable college for New York City residents.
In his proposed executive budget released on Jan.13, Cuomo included $240 million in pay raises for faculty, but only if New York City would contribute $485 million toward CUNY’s budget.
Six years ago, the state legislature gave the CUNY Board of Trustees control over annual tuition increases of approximately $300 per year at all senior colleges.
Now the governor seems to be trying to get New York City to assume the entire cost of funding CUNY and settling a contract dispute with the teacher’s union on the backs of students.
“It’s (expletive) ridiculous because I’m struggling paying five thousand dollars and change out of pocket,” said Kimarley Forbes, 20, an undecided major.
Chancellor James Milliken testified before the state legislature on Feb. 8 to voice his opposition to cuts in state spending for public education.
“I would argue there is a need for greater overall investment in an institution that is responsible for 500,000 students every day,” Milliken said. “To serve them and the state well, it is essential that the investment in CUNY be stable, secure and adequate. That, in my mind, should be the discussion we have.”
Some students are irate that they have to absorb the costs due to the budget shortfall.
“Money does not grow on trees,” said Nova Bajamonte, 20, a junior Broadcast major at Brooklyn College. “I went to CUNY because I knew it was going to be cheaper but now I realize I could have went to a private college and get more for my money.”
CUNY tuition was free for most students since the University was established in 1847 as the Free Academy, and free for all students between 1970 and 1976, according to the University’s website. In 1976 senior college tuition for all students debuted at $925 per year for all students, and now stands at $6,330 per year for full-time state residents.
“It’s already expensive and we don’t have the financial backbone to support the raise,” said 26-year-old York Psychology major Irvin Paul. “It’s ridiculous that we have to pick up the slack for the state. We are in enough debt.”
Although officials promised to invest the additional revenue from tuition hikes into services, some students said that there has been no transparency in the reallocated funds.
“Medgar is falling apart,” said 20-year old Lyndia Bennett, a Marketing major at Medgar Evers. “I’m sure other CUNY’s with more white people use their money in a good way because they don’t look this bad and they have mad classes.”
20-year-old York College Accounting major Nathaly Gonzalez said besides adding extra clubs, she does not believe York has attempted to provide additional academic services.
“I haven’t seen an increase in programs for students,” she said. “The only change I’ve seen is more clubs, but nothing major.”
But Baruch College freshman Kwesi Stephenson said he believes that his college has invested the additional revenue in financial aid for students.
“There are a lot of available scholarships and money available for us,” said Stephenson. “I never saw a problem with the condition of my school, if anything we’ve gotten more.”
Leeyah Baldeosingh, a 19-year-old City Tech sophomore, said there are too many adjuncts. According to York’s Office of Institutional Advancement, as of Nov. 2014 there were 198 full-time faculty members compared to 348 adjunct instructors working at the college.
“For all the money we spend, there should be more full-time professors,” she said. “Most of my professors are not full-time and they’re for my major. I could have went to FIT for all that.”
CUNY professors have not had a raise in six years and labor activists are discussing plans to hold a strike this semester if a satisfactory contract is not negotiated.
“Everyone wants a little more for a little less,” said York College President Marcia Keizs. “But we are doing the best we can to give students the value of what they’re paying for.”
While Cuomo’s proposed financial hike is not finalized, former York College adjunct Lauren Genovesi said she is not optimistic. She believes that there will be more tuition hikes.
“As sad as it is, CUNY is a business,” she said. “And the goal of all businesses is for the breadwinners to continue to stuff their pockets, and the consumers to continue to consume to try to be a breadwinner. Essentially, CUNY is competing with SUNY’s, but I wouldn’t expect the cost to lower anytime soon.”