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CUNY set to raise tuition 5%

Beginning this spring, City University of New York (CUNY) students will be paying more at the once tuition-free institutions.

Tuition will be raised five percent for the upcoming semester, with another possible two percent increase this fall. This is the third tuition hike in the past decade, with the most recent increase coming last year. Over that span tuitions have gone up 51 percent at senior colleges and 32 percent at community colleges.

Until September of 1976, CUNY schools were tuition-free for all students funded completely by the government.

The City Council’s Committee on Higher Education, chaired by Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez conducted an oversight hearing reiterating their commitment to maintain CUNY’s status as a source of affordable education.

“These increases come at a time of rising financial hardship for many of New York City’s families,” said Rodriguez. “Accordingly, decisions that affect the ability of these young people to achieve economic success through their education at CUNY must be taken with the most careful consideration.”

Blair Horner, legislative director at New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) said he understood the dire financial situation the state is in, but that college must still be made affordable.

“[NYPIRG] believes you should make it as easy as financially possible for people to go to college,” said Horner. “How do you insure the students from low income families aren’t knocked out of college because they can’t afford it?”

The struggle lies in making sure representatives in Albany, and the mayor, recognize what a crucial investment public higher education is, said Rodriguez’s legislative director Megan Sallomi.

If tuition must be raised, restoring cuts made last year to financial aid would be a step to help offset financial difficulties students may have, Horner said.

With 23 institutions within the five boroughs, and five in Queens, CUNY serves over 480,000 students and is the largest university system in the nation. Many students come from low to middle income families that rely on the lower tuition CUNY offers. Sixty percent of community college and 46 percent of senior college students come from households earning less than $30,000 per year.

“While CUNY and the City Council are both doing the best they can with what funds are available, it’s clear that without increased state and city funding, some of this burden will fall on working students, an outcome that Councilmember Rodriguez is particularly concerned about,” Sallomi said.

“I came to Queens [College] because it was affordable,” said junior Michael Sun. “But if they continue to raise tuition, kids may look for something else. Or be forced to just skip college.”

According to a Sallie Mae study parents devote 37 percent of their income and savings to pay for college expenses.

“It’s tough enough already,” said Steve Ramirez, a sophomore at Queens College who also works to help pay his tuition. “Plus, there are all the books we need to buy which can be another $1,000 on top of tuition.”

“To make it hard to go to college just because they are poor seems like dumb public policy,” said Horner.

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