December 12, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – The CUNY Rising Alliance, community groups, faculty and student representatives, and others, gathered on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, December 7th, to rally for increased funding and other improvements to the CUNY system, as well as a CUNY Students’ Bill of Rights, and to announce the release of the Alliance’s white paper on the complexities of the challenges facing the CUNY system.
The Alliance is a coalition of thirty professional and community groups including District Council 37, the Professional Staff Congress, the Working Families Party, the CUNY Student Senate, and the Alliance for Quality Education.
To chants of “Who’s Got the Power? We’ve got the Power! What kind of Power? Student Power!” those on the steps raised signs and voices in an effort to draw attention to their issues. Kevin Stump, Northeast Director of Young Invincibles, a national non-profit organization that works to engage young Americans on issues such as higher education, health care and jobs, and a member of the CUNY Rising Alliance, addressed those assembled, saying, “We are here to release the white paper, and the Student Bill of Rights…in a time when a college degree is more necessary than ever, it is time to fully fund CUNY.”
Tish James, Public Advocate, said, “I stand here as the Public Advocate, but more importantly, as a CUNY graduate. We all know the value of higher education…it is the key to success for millions of young people. CUNY is what provides this critical foundation. Without CUNY [they] might not be able to attend college. I am an example of that. The working poor of the city yearn for an education and success.” James said the average college education tuition at private institutions was $32,000, well beyond the reach of many, and that 44% of students were the children of immigrants. “We have to open up the doors for all.”
The Alliance and supporters are calling for two billion dollars in public funding to end what it calls “chronic disinvestment.” And although programs such as CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) enable about 8,000 students to attend tuition free, fewer than 10% of matriculated students benefit from the program. Meanwhile, per-student funding from the State has fallen by double digits.
The CUNY Rising plan proposes increased financial aid, and increases in City and State support that would fund a tuition freeze and eventually reductions in tuition. More full-time faculty and academic advisors would be hired, and pay for adjuncts would increase. Capital funding would also be increased to repair, upgrade and expand CUNY’s facilities, which are aging and over-used.
Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, said, “Students, community groups, labor, faculty and staff are coming together to say CUNY is vital to the survival of NYC. We’re demanding a new vision of funding for CUNY, where it no longer has to scrape by. There’s enough money in this rich city and rich state to fund CUNY.”
Hercules Reid, of the CUNY University Student Senate, said, “We have a huge concern. Tuition is rising. It is not normal to neglect an institution of higher learning.” He then led the crowd to chant, “Fight, fight, fight, Education is a Right!”