Combating Austerity 

Students should fight against tuition hikes and budget cuts for CSI and CUNY.

By Michael Levitas 

Photo Credit: The New Yorker | People march through the streets to demand free CUNY. 

Founded in the nineteenth century as the Free Academy of the City of New York, the City University of New York (CUNY) was established to provide accessible and affordable education to all, regardless of social class or economic status. 

It became one of the largest public university systems in the United States.

Over the years, CUNY has expanded to encompass a network of multiple campuses across New York City, serving more than 200,000 students annually. Throughout its history, CUNY has played a vital role in promoting social mobility and providing educational opportunities to underrepresented and marginalized communities. 

This is why the current treatment of CUNY is upsetting. In recent years, akin to most public universities, CUNY has faced sweeping austerity. 

Austerity is a term used to describe cuts in spending and increases in taxes or prices to balance the budget. 

State governments have cut public spending for public universities and colleges.  A smaller percentage of the budget is allocated toward education each year. 

The cause of this dilemma is most likely the Great Recession, which increased unemployment and exacerbated declines in tax revenue. When states face fiscal problems, education is, unfortunately, the first on the chopping block. 

The other problem is also declining student enrollment due to the pandemic. These problems have created austerity that has forced greater dependence on student tuition. 

Each year, students’ share of college costs has dramatically increased. Students have been forced to borrow more and seek out loans, which has worsened the student debt crisis. 

Austerity and budget cuts have also led to a worse experience for college students—broken sidewalks, terrible ratio of full-time faculty to students, and loss of full-time professors.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was the most egregious towards cutting funding for CUNY. 

According to Inside Higher Ed, state aid fell by $7 billion during his tenure as governor. Governor Kathy Hochul has promised to reverse this trend. 

Hochul’s most recent budget reveals, which increases funding by a modest amount, raises student tuition by 3-4 percent for the next fiscal year. 

Mayor Eric Adams, who is responsible for 40 percent of CUNY funding, has released a budget plan that includes major decreases in funding towards education, which includes CUNY schools. 

Despite being promised an end to austerity, it seems that once again supporters of CUNY are given the short end of the stick. 

NYPIRG, the New York Public Interest Research Group, is active on multiple CUNY campuses, especially the College of Staten Island.  CSI NYPIRG has been very vocal about how CSI faces disproportionate harm from this budget plan compared to other CUNY schools. ‘

We face a larger budget cut of 7% and greater tuition hikes. Budget cuts will lead to layoffs of professors, departments shutting down, fun activities being taken away, and worse infrastructure.  

NYPIRG has been vigorously combating this treatment towards CSI and other CUNY campuses by making trips to the NY state capitol, where politicians are being pressured and lobbied into voting against budget cuts. 

NYPIRG and other groups have been staunch supporters of the New Deal for CUNY. 

According to its website, New Deal for CUNY is a piece of legislation that plans to “reverse decades of underfunding.” 

Additionally, the legislation aims to protect the quality of education, restore a tuition-free CUNY, and increase the number of faculty and staff. 

It is important that you spread awareness for the New Deal for CUNY.  It’s important that we assist in preserving CUNY but also in bringing it back towards its roots. 

CSI ranks high in regards to social mobility but we can improve it by fighting for the New Deal for CUNY.

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