By Ashley Oliver
With CUNY’s five-year plan to raise tuition within its last year, irate CUNY students are demanding a freeze to further tuition hikes.
Five years ago, the New York’s State Legislature and the CUNY Board of Trustees approved annual tuition increases of approximately $300 per year at all senior colleges. At the time officials promised that any student who could not afford the increases would be eligible for state aid.
But now that the five years are up, students are fearful of another tuition hike.
“CUNY doesn’t give a damn about students,” said Axelle Mathurin, a 21-year-old Psychology major. “There better not be another raise in tuition. I had to work extra since freshman year just to pay tuition. If I have to take another class in the fall, I’m going on strike with CUNY.”
York College President Marcia V. Keizs said she believe that 2016’s spring semester would be the last year in the latest round of tuition increases. “This is our last academic year of COMPACT,” said Keizs, referring to the program under which the recent tuition increases were established. “There’s not going to be another hike for a while.”
Tuition at CUNY 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.
Some students are pushing for more transparency as to how the extra money they paid was spent.
“It’s absurd how students have to pay all this money, yet we don’t reap the benefits,” said Baruch College Business major Diomarys Mendez, 20. “If CUNY actually physically put their claims into place, students won’t be mad.”
“I can understand if we got more heat, a better looking building, something more advanced,” said Brandon Bennett, 20, a Brooklyn College Movement Science major. “It’s New York for Christ sake and the schools look old and we students get lower quality electronics.”
Despite the plan’s promise that the additional revenue will be reinvested in programs, some students believe that the services provided in schools are not commensurate with the tuition costs.
“I understand everyone wants a little more for a little less,” said Keizs. “But we are doing the best we can to give students the value of what they’re paying for.”
But York’s former Student Government Vice President and alumna Gesmen Begum is not as optimistic. She believes that there will be another tuition hike within the next two years.
“College budgets are not linked to the tuition,” said Begum. “A lot of the activities were from each college’s private association.”
Everald Williams, 24, a senior at Medgar Evers College, said if there is another tuition hike, the money should aid students who are financially unstable.
“For the past two years, I’ve received limited financial aid,” said Williams. “I know the city is doing us a favor, but COMPACT claims they want to help students succeed but they could hardly afford to go to school.”
While some students’ demands for proof of the allocation of their money escalate, some CUNY staff and students attribute the communication gap to students’ unwillingness to read all the details in documents regarding financial changes.
“We don’t create tuition, we abide by them,” said York’s Vice President of Administrative Affairs and Finance Ronald Thomas. “Any student can go to the CUNY website to read on what COMPACT is intended to do, It’s a good reference point for students to keep on their smartphone so they can inform themselves on the plan.”
Kiarah Thomas, a 20-year-old Junior at John Jay Criminal Justice, admits to not reading CUNY emails.
“Most students, including myself, don’t read the emails that the schools send,” Thomas said. “So obviously, we are gonna get mad when changes actually impact us because we never prepared for it.”
One common concern among students and faculty is the steady rise in the number of courses taught by adjunct versus full-time faculty.
“It’s ironic because many professors are adjuncts at my job and they got rid of a lot of full time staff and college assistants who are the ones providing the services for the students,” said Shaquille Martin, an information technologist for classroom support at Medgar Evers college and former CUNY student.
Between 2004 and 2011, the percentage of adjunct faculty teaching courses rose from 36 to 44 percent CUNY-wide, according to data maintained by the faculty’s union. In York College, there are 198 full-time instructional staff compared to 348 part-time instructional staff, according to a November 2014 statistic from The Office of Institutional Advancement.