In Albany, Students Confront Legislators
By Gabriel Davila
CSI students and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) advocated against further tuition hikes in CUNY and voiced their support for a tuition freeze on February 25 in Albany alongside hundreds of students.
The students walked into a contentious atmosphere in Albany where a nearly $500 million budget cut from state funds has been in discussion.
“Higher tuition costs make it harder for students to get the degree they need in order to get jobs,” said Neil Button, NYPIRG’s Project Coordinator for CSI. “Instead of increasing state funding for CUNY and SUNY, the state shifts the financial burden to students.”
The NYSUNY and NYCUNY 2020 tuition plans increase tuition by $300 each year and expires on April 1.
CSI students advocated for a lower tuition plan because they cannot afford more hikes. Students voiced their financial struggle and emphasized their need for an affordable education.
“I’m afraid of these tuition hikes because I don’t want to kiss my education goodbye,” said Chris Hood, a sophomore at CSI. “I work full time and I can barely make ends meet with bills and rent.”
Since Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the NYSUNY and NYCUNY 2020 tuition plans on August 9, 2011, CUNY universities like the College of Staten Island faced a $1,500 tuition hike over the last four years. According to The Statesman, Governor Cuomo advocated towards a five-year extension on NYSUNY and NYCUNY 2020 plans.
“I’m the first generation in my family to go to college and I can’t qualify for Financial Aid or TAP (Tuition Assistance Program),” said Maria Vasquez, a sophomore at CSI. “My sister is going to college and has to pay out of pocket like me.”
The Envoy, Hunter College’s official student newspaper, reported that enrolled students can anticipate senior colleges’ tuition and fees to increase by another 24 percent by 2021 through the reenactment of CUNY 2020, reaching almost $8,000 if the plan gets fully implemented.
“My friend’s dad had a stroke and couldn’t work,” said Jomayra Clardy, a freshman at CSI. “My friend’s $50,000 in debt and has to work two jobs just to pay off her debt and take care of her dad.”
Although Assemblymen Michael Cusick and Andrew Garbarino could not meet with the student advocates and NYPIRG, legislative aids listened to students on their behalf.
“Assemblyman Garbarino goes in and out a lot but we go over stuff that happened in his meetings,” said Mike Popowski, a legislative associate who works for Garbarino. “I’m sure he’s passionate about the rising costs in college education since he and I are still paying off our debt.”
Assemblymen Michael Cusick’s district director echoed a similar sentiment.
“I cannot speak on Assemblyman Cusick’s behalf, but he does advocate for higher education and isn’t a supporter of tuition hikes,” said Gentiana Ames of the Assemblyman who’s district encompasees CSI’s campus.
Despite student protests against the tuition hike plans, supporters of NYSUNY and NYCUNY 2020 plans advocated for extension.
In a press release, SUNY said “NYSUNY 2020 must be renewed, because it ensures that the SUNY Board of Trustees keeps setting tuition rates and this authority does not go back to the state.”
Stony Brook University benefitted from the NYSUNY 2020 plan and achieved goals such as “an increase in the 4 -year graduation rate, hired 246 net new faculty, increased research funding and adding sections and faculty in key courses in an effort to clear obstacles to graduation,” Stony Brook University’s President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement.
Stanley Jr compared tuition to a roulette before SUNY2020 passed, “some years there would be massive tuition increases-20 to 30 percent a year-and other years, there would be nothing.”