CUNY to eliminate application fees for 37,500 students

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Students from low-income families will no longer have to pay the $65 application fee for CUNY schools.

The application fee waiver is part of an initiative launched by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and aims to eliminate financial barriers to affordable education.

“Eliminating the application fee for low-income seniors will have a profound impact for thousands of students and their families,” de Blasio said.

Additionally, the application fee waiver allows qualified students to submit an application for up to six CUNY schools. This gives students more options as to where to pursue their studies.

“This initiative by the city will open the doors of opportunity to thousands more young New Yorkers seeking to benefit from these pipelines and to maximize their educational experiences," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said.

The decision to eliminate this fee is estimated to help an estimated 37,500 students apply to CUNY schools. In previous years, an estimated 6,500 waivers were issued, annually.

“Through College Access for All, we are working tirelessly to ensure that every single student can graduate with a world of college and career choices ahead of them. Increasing fee waivers means increasing access and opportunities for our students by addressing financial barriers that make it more difficult for them to apply to CUNY. This is another crucial step towards equity and excellence for all students,” Phil Weinberg, Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, said.

The waiver initiative is estimated to cost the city and CUNY $2.4 million annually. $400,000 will come from CUNY with the other $2 million coming from the administration to cover the expansion.

“Nearly 60 percent of New York City’s college-bound public school students enroll in CUNY and the application fee allows a student to apply to up to six CUNY schools,” chancellor of CUNY James Milliken said. “This dramatic increase in fee waivers eliminates a hurdle for thousands of low-income students seeking higher education and is consistent with CUNY’s historic mission to increase access to quality higher education.”

Students eligible for the program include those living in federally subsidized public housing, foster homes, those who are homeless or those whose families currently receive public assistance. These qualifications also apply to undocumented students.

“Application fees are a heavy burden for low-income students and families struggling to pay rent, food and utility bills,” NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm said. “I applaud the decision to exempt qualifying students from such unnecessary and onerous fees.  I will continue to work with the administration to make higher education more accessible to all NYC youth.”

The mission of the College Access for All initiative, part of the Equity and Access for All Agenda is ensure “every student will have the resources and support at their high school to graduate with an individual college and career plan.”

“No student should be shut out of a college education because of a lack of ability to pay. With this fee waiver, we are opening the door to a college education for nearly 40,000 families—an achievement the entire city should be proud of,” Council Member David Greenfield said.

Barbara Bowen, PSC President commended the mayor and Chancellors Fariña and Milliken for their decision to expand the access to application waiver fees.

“Education— including college education—should be a right, not a privilege,” Bowen said. “Anything that removes initial barriers to access is a gain for all New Yorkers. Some of my own best students have come to CUNY from lives of extreme poverty and dislocation; the university will be richer for the presence of students whose initial access will be smoothed by the application fee waiver.”

Phil Vallone

Phil is a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Journalism. He is also a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2013. He covers events and activism at CUNY. After graduating, he plans to cover politics and activism around the world. You can follow him on Twitter @philvallone or on Facebook at Contact him at philvallo[at]

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