CUNY and SUNY Students Lobby for Funding in Albany

Students wtih assemblywoman, Yuh-line Niou., in Albany / NYPIRG
Students wtih assemblywoman, Yuh-line Niou., in Albany / NYPIRG

Written By Nasra Abdalla Khamis

Hundreds of students from CUNY and SUNY traveled to Albany last week to get in legislators’ faces and show them the pressing need for increased higher ed funding.

   On Thursday, Feb. 27, students affiliated with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) went on their annual “Higher Education Lobby Day” in Albany to share their personal stories with the legislators and express the need for more funding for higher education.

   It was an early morning for those who took the journey by bus to the state capital. Brooklyn College students set off at 6:30 a.m., picking up students from the College of Staten Island along the way. Students on the bus were given instructions by a NYPIRG coordinator on how to behave during the platform event, and how to respectfully bring the message across. The students had to fill out forms that instructed the students where to go and what appropriate questions to ask the legislative officials. On the forms it told students “don’t argue” with the officials.

   The agenda was to put focus on providing more funds to public education without raising the tuition fee higher than it already is. According to NYPIRG, the college group would like to see “new deals, not another year of flat operating budgets, tuition hikes, and increasing tuition.”  They would also like to see an “increase in state investment, not tuition.” CUNY and SUNY students have paid at least $2.5 billion in out-of-pocket increases tuition since the State’s current public college funding model was established. As of yet, no changes have been seen. 

   NYPIRG’s agenda calls for the TAP Gap to be eliminated, and for the state to reinvest in CUNY and SUNY four-year colleges. The “TAP Gap” is the growing difference between TAP funding for students and actual tuition fee. Since the year 2012, it has cost public colleges nearly $850 million. Stability and an increase in community college funding should be fixed, so that CUNY and SUNY community colleges do not face funding cuts due to enrollment declines. 

   According to the NYPIRG list of demands, the money made should be invested in student success and expanding opportunity programs. CUNY and SUNY community colleges need an increase of at least $41 million this year to reach the goal. The agenda aims at focusing on “The DREAM Act” which would help undocumented students.

   After arriving at their destination, students and instructors gathered in the hall “Room 6,” where they met the rest of the energetic CUNY and SUNY students and supporters who had come out. The room was crowded with people, chairs were filled and many were standing. In front of all, there was a stage for the speakers and for  those that wanted to get up and tell their story.

   Kailey, a SUNY student that spoke to the rest of her fellow college students said, “College is expensive, college is hard, not everyone can make it into college for the simplest reasons. They can’t make it because they do not have the money, they do not have the resources to get there and when they do get there, they can not stay there.” She added, “It is terrible because once you are there, you should be able to stay there on your own terms. You should not have to drop out because you couldn’t afford it, or you are going through homelessness.” 

   After all students were put in groups, my group met with the first assemblywoman, Yuh-line Niou. It took her awhile to come meet with the group, but she did show up.

   “I am one of your biggest advocates,” she said. Niou, a Baruch graduate, confirmed to us that she is campaigning for everything that CUNY and SUNY fight for. She said, “I don’t even want to think about cuts for our health care safety net. I think you have so many champions here on the assembly side to raise revenue.”

   She continued, “I have a bill that would actually help us to raise revenue. It will help us raise $3.2 billion in the first year.”

   The second assemblywoman that the group met with, did not have much to say. Linda B. Rosenthal was very welcoming. After the introduction of everyone in the group, the group’s leader David Kahn explained the students’ needs to her. She took the time to answer all questions asked about siding with CUNY and SUNY and she agreed, “Yes!” to everything in her power to help CUNY and SUNY students’ tuition needs changed for the better.

   It was a long journey to Albany, but the students left upstate confident that this time, their voices were heard by the legislatives.

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