CUNY Rising Alliance protests tuition hikes


Chants of “Hey hey, ho ho!/Tuition hikes have got to go!” filled Baruch College’s 25th Street Plaza on Oct. 23, as dozens of protesters representing the CUNY Rising Alliance, a coalition that includes CUNY Professional Staff Congress, New York Communities for Change and other organizations, rallied prior to a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus.

The meeting pertained to a number of issues, including voting on the Fiscal Year 2019 University Budget Request.

This request includes the predictable tuition policy, annually increasing tuition by $200 at all of CUNY’s senior colleges since the policy was enacted in 2011. The policy was recently renewed.

PSC President Barbara Bowen, along with others who attended the rally, highlighted the need for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide funding for New York City’s public university system, which serves over 245,000 undergraduate students, according to 2015 student profile statistics.

“It is wrong that New York state, this rich state in this richest of cities, that this rich state will not provide the funding that’s needed so that students have totally free access to CUNY. And so that your classes are staffed fully, so that there are enough counselors, enough professors, enough folks in the library, enough spaces in the lab. There is no reason in this rich state that that should not be true. And right now, on Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s desk, is a bill that would provide steady — every year, not just this year, every year — funding to cover the increases … normal increases at CUNY,” Bowen said during the rally.

“We want our trustees to take a strong stand and tell the governor that he must sign that bill. So far, we have not seen the trustees taking that stand,” the PSC president continued.

According to the student profile statistics released by CUNY in the Fall 2015 semester, 38.5 percent of CUNY students have a household income of less than $20,000. In addition, 30.2 percent of CUNY students work at paid jobs for more than 20 hours a week.

Protesters also called on Cuomo to sign off on the enhanced Maintenance of Effort bill, which was passed by both the New York State Assembly and Senate in the final days of legislative session earlier this year. The bill, if passed, would increase New York state’s investment in public higher education, but it must be signed by Cuomo in order to become a law. According to PSC, the current version of the MOE bill, which “provides essentially flat funding, requiring that State allocation for the public universities be no less than it was in the prior year,” does not do enough to cover the necessary overhead associated with keeping the university system running, such as rent, energy and other operating costs.

Other chants heard at the rally included “What do we want?/CUNY for all!/When do we want it?/Now!” and “Governor Cuomo, can’t you see?/CUNY needs more money/Increasing tuition is not the way/Sign college MOE today.”

According to Alliance for Quality Education member Maria Bautista, tuition hikes hurt CUNY’s black and brown students most.

“My last semester at the City College of New York, I owed $800, and they would not let me register for the semester. $800,” said Bautista, who graduated from CCNY 10 years ago and now teaches in the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She further detailed how she could not pay this extra amount of money, and that a professor at CCNY had to help her get the fee waived. "And these are the same obstacles that our black, brown and poor students are facing today. And we need this racist attack to stop. Today,” said Bautista.

“… While I was at City College they attacked CUNY students with the same nonsense: a tuition hike. And time after time, it is black and brown low income students that have to bear the burden of getting a high quality education. Is this right?” Bautista asked the crowd of protesters, who subsequently responded with a resounding “No!”

After about one hour of rallying, the protesters entered Baruch in order to attend the meeting.