Public officials, students request CUNY tuition hike freeze 


Struggling City University of New York (CUNY) students, higher education advocates and City elected officials yesterday united with the CUNY University Student Senate to call for a tuition hike freeze during the COVID-19 crisis in a virtual press conference.

The CUNY Board of Trustees had approved a $320 tuition hike last December, which caused student and faculty protests during the meeting. The hike included a $200 annual tuition increase and an additional $120 of health and wellness fee that created controversy. 

“I’m one of many students at CUNY who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and it’s unacceptable for the board of trustees to raise tuition for next year. There’s absolutely no excuse when students are facing unprecedented levels of job loss and financial insecurity,” said Margaret Stone, a student attending City College.

“We should continue to support students to make sure that CUNY itself maintains as one of the most affordable institutions of higher education not only here in New York State, but everywhere else”, said Assemblymember Victor Pichardo (D-Bronx).

In order to fund higher education during a global pandemic that led to budget cuts for the New York State, State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Central Queens) explained she is supporting legislation that will impose higher taxes for individuals earning more than $5 million. She said that 15% of this revenue can be used for higher education funding.

“The problem with increasing tuition is that the burden falls on the students as it has, in the 20 years that I have served in the State Senate. And that to me is unfair. We’ve got that curve that shows with state shares declining, and the student shares increasing, that has got to be reversed,” Stavisky said. She had recently sent a letter to the Board of Trustees to freeze the tuition. 

Borough President Eric Adams
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
City Council Member Inez Barron

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright and City Councilmember Inez Barron (D- East New York) were also among the public officials on the call who supported the efforts to freeze tuition. 

“We shouldn’t be balancing the budget of an entire university. This is the time where we need people to step up,” said Timothy Hunter, University Student Senate (USS) Chairperson. Hunter added that USS received 1500 testimonies from CUNY students, struggling with making ends meet, for the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting.

As the chairperson of the USS, Hunter is the sole representation of student’s voice on the CUNY Board of Trustees. Back in December 2019, Hunter was also the only member of the board to vote against the tuition hike.

“We were in short notice, asked to leave the dorms, and being an international student I have no family here to stay with,” said Nicole Agu, a College of Staten Island student and USS Vice Chair of International Student Affairs.

Agu explained that with the advocacy of USS, international students who were not able to leave the country were replaced in Queens College dormitories. 

The Board of Trustees also agreed to refund some of the student fees for the spring semester, yet there is no clear answer on how the health and wellness fee, which is a part of the tuition hike, is going to be used with the uncertainty of whether the fall semester is going to go back to in-person or remote learning. 

The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on June 15. USS is pushing for a virtual meeting format where public hearings from students can be held online for this meeting.

CUNY is the largest urban university system in the United States, comprising 25 campuses: eleven senior colleges, seven community colleges, one undergraduate honors college, and seven post-graduate institutions.

The university enrolls more than 275,000 students, and counts 13 Nobel Prize winners and 24 MacArthur Fellows among its alumni.