New York Governor Andrew Cuomo received a failing grade from students for his newest budget proposal that would increase tuition to attend state colleges and universities while decreasing state funding.
Standing outside his New York City office, members of the State University of New York Student Assembly and student representatives of the City University of New York presented the governor his report card.
“We gave a couple of ‘Fs’ because, quite frankly, it’s a failure to increase tuition on public higher education students in the middle of the pandemic. It’s clear that is not the right choice to make,” Student Assembly President Brad Hershenson said.
Hershenson said Cuomo has a failing state tuition policy and lackluster tuition assistance program designed to help New Yorkers pay for higher education in select public schools in the state. The governor received incomplete grades for mental health services, graduate student support, disability services and community college aid. They say the state simply does not provide enough.
The only good grade Cuomo received was for the state’s Educational Opportunity Program: an ‘A-’. The program provides access to academic and financial aid to students who show promise but weren’t provided enrollment to a school.
“CUNY is a pathway to the future,” said Harvey Epstein, a CUNY Law alum and Student Assembly member. “We need to invest in CUNY and invest in SUNY now."
Cuomo proposed in his budget a $39 million change in tuition for all of the state's public schools for higher education. The budget funds higher education with $2.7 billion, a $700 million decrease from the current spending.
New York is expecting to receive roughly $100 billion in state and local aid through the federal coronavirus relief bill that passed through Congress this week. The state faces a $15 billion budget deficit. The funding makes up for about $12 billion.
During the rally, student leaders called for federal aid to be used to fund higher education.
“We must remain true to the notions of affordability and accessibility in public higher education. Raising tuition during the middle of a pandemic is clearly not the right choice.” Hershenson said. “Given the billions of dollars in federal aid coming to New York now is the time to lower tuition at both CUNY and SUNY. We can finally stop balancing the budgets on the backs of our own students.”
SUNY and CUNY schools have lost income due to the pandemic with fewer students enrolling and living on campus.
“The pandemic has financially strained many of our students and every dollar matters, which is why we did not raise tuition this year. Longstanding New York State investment in higher education has kept tuition affordable and, while the budget for 2021-2022 is not yet final, we will make sure we keep it that way while we continue to build on the academic excellence our students expect,” a SUNY spokesperson said.