Council Member Inez Barron’s Statement on Proposed CUNY Tuition Hikes

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I am adamantly opposed to any and all tuition hikes for students. Masking the gravity of this issue is Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship Program, which is being sold to the public as “Free Tuition” to public colleges – it is not. Free tuition, as historically defined, when public colleges had few students of color, meant free tuition came with acceptance to the college – period.

The state budget agreement has in it an annual $200 tuition hike for the next four years. Contradictorily, Governor Cuomo says out of one side of his mouth, “free tuition”, then out of the other side, “raise tuition”. This is clear hypocrisy.

I am calling on you as the Board of Trustees to exercise your power and reject the call to impose any additional financial burdens on students. CUNY family average income is low according to your own documents. Although low-income CUNY students get tuition assistance from TAP and Pell grants, they still need assistance to pay for exorbitant nontuition costs; i.e., textbooks, fees, supplies, room and board, transportation, food and child care, which oftentimes can be twice the cost of tuition.

Many CUNY working students and parent students are excluded from the Excelsior Scholarship Program due to the necessity to work and provide for their families.  These students can only attend school part-time. These low-income students and others would experience raises in their tuition. This is unacceptable. Students should not have to bear the burden of the costs of operations and staff salaries by paying tuition to subsidize these costs.  It is the responsibility of the state to adequately fund the public institutions of higher education.  We know that in the workplace of the coming decade, post-secondary education is to be a requirement for jobs that provide a living wage. Attaining a post-secondary degree is a way to gain entry into the moderate- and middle-income groups.

-Council Member Inez Barron