Part-time CUNY students deprived of financial assistance

Hande Erkan

While almost 79,000 CUNY students are part-time and continue to face similar economic hardships as their full-time counterparts, they have little or no access to tuition or other financial assistance, according to recent findings by the Center for an Urban Future.

“It is past time for New York’s policymakers to step up and adapt the state’s financial aid system to the needs of today’s students,” the report stated.

Most of these students are affected by external economic factors such as coming from households with income below $30,000 a year, travel expenses, living costs and other additional and necessary expenditures.

Despite full-time and part-time students sharing these economic challenges, tuition assistance continues to be primarily offered only to full-time students.

Over 40% of CUNY community college students and approximately one-third of CUNY undergraduates have been recorded to be part-time in fall 2019, according to the Center for an Urban Future.

Kingsborough Community College offers an even higher percentage, with about 50% of all students attending on a part time basis. Out of the 91,715 community college students of New York, 37,028 engage in part time education.

The Center for an Urban Future has found fewer than one percent of CUNY part-time students have been awarded tuition assistance.

While other programs exist, they are limited. For example, a New York State program called Aid for Part-Time Study provides financial packages only for 4.7% of part-time students.

The current tuition assistance programs promote a dangerous cycle, the report stated. Students overcommit by attending school full-time on top of external responsibilities solely for financial aid, and by doing this, the system creates an extra burden.

The inability to find assistance is the main obstacle to the inherent goal of continuous student enrollment to graduation, according to the Center for an Urban Future.

Officials and organizations in New York have made motions to alter the situation by providing part-time students with better opportunities. Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed investing $150 million into expanding the state’s tuition assistance program to part-time students.

“The Legislature should get behind her plan, which would help tens of thousands of mostly low-income students earn a credential and get on the path to the middle class,” the report read.