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May 8, 2012

CUNY at the Council Lobby Day

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lexis Jones, a Borough of Manhattan Community College student, just paid tuition for the fall semesterHowever, she fears she may not be able to stay in school because of tuition increases and the potential cutting of the daycare program she relies on.

“That would be tragic,” said Jones, a human service major and mother of a 1-year old.

Jones and more than 100 students, faculty and staff members gathered at City Hall on May 2 for the CUNY at the Council Lobby Day event. They attended meetings with 36 councilmembers, urging them to reject Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget proposal for CUNYs community colleges and restore funding to the schools.

The event was co-sponsored by the New York Public Interest Research Group, the University Student Senate and the Professional Staff Congress.

According to the groups’ platform, “Mayor Bloomberg’s flat-line budget for CUNY community colleges doesn’t account for enrollment increases, inflationary costs and devastating cuts to scholarships and other programs. His plan assumes a requested $300 tuition hike that many community college students cannot afford and it defunds council-supported initiatives that enrich the college experience and improve student success.”

The Safety Net program was defunded in 2009 and the same happened to The Vallone Scholarship in 2011. The programs provided critical funding to thousands of low-income students and were the only public-aid available to undocumented students.

The group urged councilmembers to provide funding that would support the addition of new full-time faculty and staff, enhanced equipment and improved facilities. They also asked for the restoration of defunded programs and the maintenance of surviving ones such as the Black Male Initiative, Murphy Institute for Worker Education and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

“The City Council has been a strong advocate for CUNY in years past,” said Francis Clark, PSC’s communications coordinator. “We would like the Council to step up even more this year to help the University rebuild after years of cuts and underfunding.”

After the $300 tuition hike, as part of the rational tuition plan, tuition and fees at CUNY community colleges will have increased by 212 percent since 1990-91, according to PSC’s Invest in CUNY community colleges informational booklet. 2011-12’s total expenses — amounting to $3, 946 — were 33 percent higher than the national average at two-year public colleges.

Despite the increase in student spending, city support has failed to keep up with enrollment growth. Overall support per full-time student has fallen 29.1 percent since 1990-91, according to the booklet.

Nicolas Guerrero, a Queens College freshman, remains optimistic about the effectiveness of the Lobby Day event.

“We need to do things like this, in a diplomatic way, so they can take us seriously,” he said.

Kate Pfordresher, PSC’s director of research and public policy, acknowledged that while the event was a successful first step, more should be done in order to hold councilmembers accountable for the support they pledged.

“In general, the councilmembers were responsive but more pressure will be needed for the mayor and Council to fully meet the coalition demands,” she said. “I would encourage Queens College students to contact the councilmember in the district where they live.”



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