Adams Lays Blueprint For Free CUNY Community College Tuition

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Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams yesterday advocated a three-pronged attack that would lead to reinstating free tuition for two-year community colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system.

Adams plan comes after examining the Independent Budget Office of New York City (IBO) cost analysis report that he requested following President Barack Obama’s call during last year’s State of the Union address.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams

“The IBO’s analysis reinforces my belief that tuition-free community college is the future for New York City, and it is time to take steps toward achieving it,” said Adams. “Our community colleges offer students an opportunity to develop their skills and to prepare for success in their careers.”

The first prong of Adams plan is to expand the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which offers free tuition with support services such as tutoring, career services, and assistance with transportation and the cost of textbooks. According to the IBO findings the ASAP program nearly doubled graduation rates in a three-year period, he noted.

The second and third prong has to do with modest increased funding from both the city and state, after the report found an apparent imbalance in CUNY funding support from City and State sources, leading to a heavy reliance upon tuition to support CUNY’s operating budget. According to the report, the annual budget of CUNY community colleges in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) totaled $973 million, with 27 percent of this funding coming from the State, 31.5 percent from the City, and 36 percent from students’ pockets.

Thus, while applauding the State’s reported efforts to work with the White House on tuition-free community college, he called on this year’s budget to provide short-term assistance, increasing its contribution to the CUNY community college operating budget to equal one-third of total funding — with the other thirds coming from the City and student tuitions — which he estimated would reduce overall student burden by over $10 million.

Overall, the cost analysis found that an estimated annual expenditure between $138 million to $232 million would provide for free tuition for every CUNY community college student, both full time and part time, for as many years as are required to graduate.

In addition to asking CUNY’s Board of Trustees to consider the benefits of free tuition for community college students, Adams encouraged elected officials to work with each other in support of CUNY students by enacting the New York State Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide financial aid from the state for students who are undocumented immigrants, as well as reaching a fair conclusion to contract negotiations with CUNY faculty and staff members.

“For many students, the cost of tuition prevents them from completing an associate’s degree or substantially delays their completion. As a result, thousands of people each year are denied the benefits of graduation, which would allow them to achieve the American Dream and robustly contribute to our economy,” said Adams.

“By reducing the tuition burden for city residents who attend our community colleges and providing the critical services that support our students, we will start to build success upon success, expanding opportunity for graduating classes of today and tomorrow. One year ago, President Obama challenged states and cities to work with the federal government to offer free tuition for community college. New York City now has the ability to become a leader in higher education by accepting that mission,” he added.