By Emma Miller
Students, unions and community groups petitioned on 10 campuses in Queens and other boroughs Wednesday for more funding for the City University of New York (CUNY) on Citywide Day of Action.
The event was part of the Fund CUNY ASAP campaign created by the CUNY Rising Alliance, a coalition of 33 organizations created to fight for free higher education. NYPIRG, faculty and staff unions and the CUNY University Student Senate also participated in the Day of Action.
The group wants more funding for CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and Accelerate Complete Engage (ACE) programs. These offer smaller classes, better advising, flexible schedules and free tuition, textbooks and MetroCards to students. The programs have been proven to double graduation rates and save the college money.
“When I had ASAP, I had resources like a MetroCard, textbook vouchers, an adviser to help me with anything going on academically or personally,” said Anthony Vancol, a psychology major at Queens College who graduated from Queensborough Community College. “If I did not have ASAP, I don’t think I would have graduated in the two years that I did.”
Only two out of 10 CUNY community college students graduate in three years, while 53 percent of ASAP students graduate in within three years. The average adviser at CUNY covers anywhere from 600 to 1,000 students, another issue more funding for ASAP could address.
Organizers planned the day of action to be at the same time as the CUNY board of trustees’ formation of their budget request for the next year. Participating students want the board to ask the city and state governments for enough money to fully fund programs like ASAP and ACE.
There is an online petition outlining these demands addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio. Students and other volunteers collected signatures via email and social media.
“CUNY ASAP funding must be a priority in the upcoming state and city budgets,” said Carlos Calzadilla, president of Young Progressives of America, one of the organizations that makes up CUNY Rising Alliance. “Expanding ASAP and increasing it to include all CUNY students in need is what truly free college in New York City would look like … ASAP is a program that tackles barriers that often prevent working-class students from affording college.”
Per-student support for CUNY senior colleges from the state has gone down 18 percent over the past decade. Although overall funding has increased, it is not enough to fully fund ASAP and ACE. An independent study showed that fully funding the programs would cost more per student but save the college an average of $6,500 per graduate.
“CUNY knows how to support students who are struggling to graduate. It knows how to lift students out of poverty,” said Smitha Varghese, chair of NYPIRG’s board. “ASAP and ACE show what CUNY can be if it is well funded. It’s time for Albany and City Hall to do the right thing and fully fund CUNY.”