By Ashley Oliver
On April 1 the New York State Legislature elected to reject Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to increase CUNY tuition.
After five straight years of annual tuition hikes by $300 which were slated to end this year, Cuomo authorized CUNY officials to raise costs yet again in his proposed budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year in early February to shift $485 million in funds for CUNY to the city. After 3 months of anticipation, the state declared a freeze on tuition and agreed to fully fund CUNY for the following fiscal year.
“I feel a sense of relief for students and their families who will not face a tuition increase at this time,” said Dr. Marcia V. Keizs, President of York College. “It is clear that students’ voices were heard in Albany. As president of the College, I am conscious of mandatory expenditure increases that we will face. For example, collective bargaining contracts for faculty and staff, and increases in energy bills, among others. Thus, York College will approach spending for the upcoming year with fiscal caution. I echo Chancellor Milliken’s gratitude to the state legislature for its continued support to CUNY.”
Some members of York College’s Student Government who travelled to Albany to protest the tuition increase attributed the freeze to the unsettled contract with the professors.
“I think those lawmakers are scared of professors going on a full-time strike,” said SGA treasurer Janna Rodriguez. “If they increased tuition without that contract all hell would have broken loose because no one can afford it. Living in the city, you can barely afford to come to school.”
York SGA Executive Director Jerome Barrett said he believes this freeze on the tuition hike will benefit students economically.
“The students who receive financial aid won’t have much worries because they get more in their refund check,” he said. “And the students who don’t [receive financial aid] would be in less stress and debt.”
Even though some students are pleased with the state’s decision, York Senior Accounting major Keera Gomez, said she is concerned that this will affect the number of full-time staff in CUNY.
“Of course I’m happy that tuition is going to stop raising, but at the same time, it’s gonna lower their morale to teach or tolerate students,” said Gomez. “If taxpayers keep protesting it’ll stay this way for a while. But realistically, tuition is going to go up whether people like it or not. It’s education that may go down.”
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 195 full-time instructional staff compared to 306 part-time instructional staff, according to a January 2016 statistic from the Office of Institutional Advancement.
Natalie Clarke, a member of the Professional Staff Congress for CUNY, said if the the freeze continues, the amount of full time staff will continue to decrease.
“We will lose our full-time staff,” said Clarke. “While I’m happy for students, I know for a fact this system is imbalanced. Nothing in this country is free, so we will pay the price of education for the quality of education.”
Former Fashion Institute of Technology Professor, Nancy Grossman said she is positive tuition will rise within the next five years despite the freeze.
“I worked in the universities for over 30 years and this is not new for CUNY or Andrew Cuomo,” said Grossman. “It’s cliché, but it’s a business. Whether it’s for the students or not, the world revolves around money. Education will suffer, but we have to educate ourselves a bit more, too. Even though the taxpayers do have the power, they give in to the ones who make the laws that the taxpayers can change.”