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USG Report: Student attendance vital in public hearings

As I have mentioned in previous columns, every month the CUNY board of trustees meets on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus. The board’s main function is to discuss the university’s future and vote on issues that pertain to all members of the CUNY community. This month, the big item up for discussion is the proposed CUNY FY 2017-18 operating budget.

From 2011 through 2016, CUNY’s tuition increased at a rate of $300 per year. In 2016, Baruch’s Undergraduate Student Government joined with other student governments from across the university to call for a tuition freeze and to prevent further tuition hikes. We were successful in our campaign and the state legislature passed a budget that did not allow the trustees to raise the tuition. In this year’s draft budget, the CUNY chancellery has included another plan to raise tuition. This time, the plan is to raise tuition at senior colleges at a rate of $250 per year while two-year community colleges will see their tuition increase at a rate of $100 per year.

There is a request for an additional $58 million from the city to support the rising cost of sustaining senior colleges. Last year, as part of the budget negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $485 million cut from state funding for CUNY. He made the point that since Mayor Bill de Blasio appoints a third of the members of the board of trustees, the city should be paying a third of the costs of the university. This proposal was scrapped by the legislature in the final rounds of negotiations.

When items come before the board of trustees, they are first voted on by a committee and, if passed, brought to the full board for a public hearing.

When the budget was brought to the Fiscal Affairs Committee, questions were raised by student members of the committee, which led other trustees to seriously question parts of the budget. After a nearly two-hour long meeting, the committee did not come to a consensus and chose not to recommend anything to the full board. It instead decided to use the public hearing as a way to gather more feedback on the plan and agreed to meet as a committee once more to determine the correct course of action.

Last month, I stood alongside many students in our university and delivered a testimony to the board of trustees at the public hearing against the new tuition hike proposals. We are ready for another budget season filled with surprises, twists and turns, but we will not back down. We will continue to advocate for the affordability and accessibility of this university.

Daniel Dornbaum is the president of USG. He can be reached at daniel.dornbaum@usgbaruch.com. His office is located at 3-272 in the Newman Vertical Campus.

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