posted 2011-09-07 15:00:35

Hunter Tuition on the Rise For Next Five Years

Kimberly Milner

Contributing Writer

The CUNY Board of Trustees held a public hearing August 3 on the topic of raising tuition. Following the hearing the board voted unanimously in favor of the increase, in line with state legislation which allowed CUNY and SUNY to raise tuition $300 per year for the next five years.

The board had previously attempted to perform the same tuition hike July 21, however a restraining order was issued five days later by the state supreme court which blocked the tuition hike on the grounds that the full board was not present at the time of voting, violating a state law which required the full board to be present during any vote to raise tuition.  The August 3 meeting brought in the entire board, effectively working around the restraining order and making tuition hike legal.

The five-year stretch of fixed-rate tuition increases was negotiated by CUNY in exchange for Albany’s commitment to not implement further reductions in financial support to the college system.  Under the agreement, disadvantaged students will continue to receive the maximum TAP award, while students receiving less than the full award will pay proportioned increases, according to statements made by chancellor Matthew Goldstein at the public hearing.

In rationalizing the revised tuition schedule, Goldstein cited persistent governmental budget cuts to CUNY combined with record high student enrollment.  According to information from CUNY's website, there had been an increase of 10.7% in full-time student enrollment at the senior colleges since 2008. Over the same period of time, however, the University’s operating budget sustained $205 million in reductions.

While the chancellor lauded the relative stability of predictable tuition targets, he condemned the size of state budget cuts that continue to afflict CUNY schools.

“Let me be very clear: cuts of this magnitude are unsustainable.  Without increased and predictable income, we will not be able to provide the classes that our students need,” he wrote in an August 9 statement.  “In fact, the $300 [tuition] increase will not completely solve our problem. It certainly won’t make up for all the dollars that have already been extracted from the University’s budget.”

A full-time resident, undergraduate student at a senior or community college will now pay $300 more for the 2011-2012 school year, as annual tuition for a Hunter College resident undergrad rises to $5,130. Law students will pay an additional $670 for the current school year, with Master degree students piling on anywhere from $480-$710, depending on the program.

The tuition hike, arriving in the middle of student's summer vacation, took many students by surprise.  Students who had already paid their tuition in full found that they now owed an additional $150.

Frank Destefano, 20, studying film, said that he thought the tuition hike was “absurd and unfair.”  His biggest complaint was that CUNY schools were supposed to be affordable by design, and that students who are already struggling to pay tuition now “have to scramble for more dollars.”

“I think that salaries should be cut from higher administration,” he said, “because the people who have to suffer are the middle and working class citizens.”

Simmi Kaur, a 19-year-old political science major who took part in the rally on Albany the day before the budget was released, said “I don’t understand why students have to take the hardest hit when the richest of the rich don’t have to pay their taxes … CUNY schools should be for the community, not just for people who can afford it.”

Stephanie Cherestal, 20, studying psychology, said that if it weren't for her scholarship, she would be forced to take out loans. “I understand the tuition increase,” said the junior, “money just doesn’t come out of thin air – but everything’s just getting more expensive and there isn’t anything stopping it.”

Amanda Reynolds, a media studies major, said she paid her fall tuition in full earlier in the summer and that she was disappointed that the hike was implemented so poorly.  “I’ve already been through class cancellation for not paying on time and the trauma of finding new classes,” said the junior. “You learn to be more careful – but even after you take care of what you need to they throw more charges at you.”

This first round of tuition increases was traumatic in that it caught many off guard, but the predictability of the hikes to follow in the next five years will not save financially strapped students from the problem of figuring out how to pay an increasingly high semester bill in times of economic distress.