Like many CUNY students, Vern Philip, who attends New York City College of Technology, is unaware of where his tuition dollars go and is upset that tuition is once again on the rise. “I’m aware that my teachers and other school employees get paid,” he says. “But I do not think another increase in tuition is necessary because everything is getting expensive and this is just another kick while most of us are down.”
Philip, like many other students of the City University of New York, or CUNY, system is unaware of what tuition covers and/or why tuition continues to rise.
When classes begin in the fall, students throughout CUNY will pay an extra $300 a year for tuition—part of a five-year, annual increase strategy, approved by the state legislature. While CCNY and other students in the CUNY system shell out much less than their private college peers, a study by the New York Times concluded that tuition has increased over 90 percent for a little over the past decade. The Times added that New York State’s contribution to the CUNY system decreased by 35 percent and the city’s contribution went down by 24 percent.
With tuition rising, students are asking where their money is going and why can’t the state or city provide more financial support to future lawyers, doctors and scientists pursuing their dreams?
In an attempt to show financial support and increase the student population in the CUNY (and SUNY) system, Governor Andrew Cuomo created an $8-million program to give full tuition to the top 10 percent of students across the state. To qualify, students must attend a CUNY (or SUNY) college, major in a STEM field–Science, Technology, Engineering or Math–and stay in New York and work for five years after graduating college. But those who qualify are not the majority of CUNY students. “Cuomo’s $8-million program can benefit eight different colleges under CUNY instead of the 10 percent it’s designed for,” says Alshane Gonsalves, a junior at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Like Gonsalves, many BMCC students agree that New York State and City are not doing enough to help college students.
Who benefits from tuition increasing? Data reviewed by Dean Savage, chair of the Queens College sociology department, conveys that although CUNY tuition is elevating, the extra money doesn’t help CUNY faculty members. “One of the major problems confronting CUNY colleges is how to pay the faculty more,” he says. When specifically discussing Queens College’s finances supporting faculty pay raises, Savage states that it is something that needs to be reviewed, causing more unanswered questions.
But tuition increases do benefit CUNY administrators. In the 11 years as chancellor of the CUNY, Matthew Goldstein’s base salary, meaning without any additional payments like overtime or bonuses, rose from $250,000 to $490,000, according to the New York Times. In fall of 2010, Goldstein was given a nine percent increase in his salary, during a time when several CUNY presidents turned down the raises out of support for their campuses that were experiencing financial hardship. Members of the board of trustees for CUNY, who are responsible for raises and tuition increase, insisted that Goldstein deserved the increase. He also received a generous retirement package when he left his position last year.
“If anything, Dr. Goldstein is underpaid!” Benno C. Schmidt Jr., chairman of CUNY trustees, said at the time.