BY KULSOOM KHAN
After months of protest and opposition to the proposed state budget for CUNY, the state has agreed to pay $1.6 billion in government operating costs for the University, as long as the state Legislature agrees to hire a state-appointed management efficiency expert to look for savings at the city and state university systems.
Initially, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a budget that eliminated $485 million of state funding for the university system. The proposed cuts would have forced students to pay an extra $300 per year in tuition. This move would have also prompted the elimination of programs such as the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs. The program significantly boosts graduation rates for CUNY’s community colleges by supporting students financially, academically and socio-emotionally.
“This year’s executive budget proposal ensures that CUNY will receive full funding. The $1.6 billion in aid it receives has not changed, and will not change under this budget. The funding stays constant. CUNY supports hundreds of thousands of students, many of whom are new to our state or our country, or are the first in their family to attend college. The Governor’s commitment to supporting those students and the institution that serves them could not be stronger, and his budget proposal reflects that reality”, said Jim Malatras, Director of State Operations in a statement.
Representatives from Cuomo’s office believe that administrative costs should be lowered in order to help students more. “Focus should be on the students and classrooms, not boardrooms and administration. CUNY’s cost of administration is one of the highest in the nation,” Malatras said.
Christian Rosario, a junior at the New York City College of Technology, who lives in East Elmhurst, was “extremely relieved” to hear about Cuomo’s decision. “I was definitely stressed out about the possibility of having to pay more tuition, so I was following this closely, “ he said. “I would be able to pay the $300, but it would be very difficult and the fact that I get financial aid is the main reason I’m attending CUNY.” He also said he chose to attend CUNY mainly so he could avoid the debt that most college students face after graduation.
Maceo Karriem, a South Jamaica resident who was attending La Guardia Community College but is currently taking a break from his studies, agreed that Cuomo’s decision was a step in the right direction. However, he said there are still other problems in the system that need to be addressed.
For example, many CUNY students who apply for financial aid are denied because of their parent’s income. Karriem’s mother stopped working just so he could receive financial aid. “My mother has the luxury of doing that, but not everybody does,” he said.
Karriem is specifically concerned about CUNY students from Jamaica who come from a middle class background, but are still in need of financial aid. “What about people that are in the shadows?,” he said. “They have to jump through hoops. They have to struggle.”