On February 28, Queens College’s New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) gathered in Albany, NY for the Higher Education Action Day, along with 19 other SUNY and CUNY schools, to meet with elected officials and share why affordable education is important and why it is a necessity to invest in opportunity programs.
This year the students and faculty members addressed the most pressing issues that affect the operating budget of the schools across the state and called upon Assembly members and Senators of their districts to make investments in the SFY 2018-19 Adopted State Budget. Some of these investments will initiate a multi-year plan to restore funding to SUNY and CUNY, reduce reliance on tuition increases, stabilize and increase community college based aid, pass the New York DREAM Act, reform the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and protect opportunity programs and other initiatives.
During the day’s event, Queens College students showed a strong interest in making their voices heard.
“Going to Albany has been a pleasure and it’s something I often can’t put into words. It gives us all a sense of purpose to know that somebody who goes to Buffalo and somebody from Queens both deal with the same problems,” Brentton Ruiz, a student who has attended the event six times, said. “CUNY and SUNY aren’t just public universities, they’re places where people meet, grow, learn and change the world around them. We do, we have, and we will continue to show support as needed until the decisions in Albany reflect the constituents and students’ rights all across the state.”
Another noteworthy aspect of this type of event is the student leadership where students are able to advocate for their rights and the rights of fellow New Yorkers. During the event, some students are asked to be team leaders and lead discussions, something that QC student Yerania Aguilar has experience with.
“I had to make sure my team and I made it to our meetings on time and run the day’s agenda. Two of our scheduled meetings were on the floor, meaning the Assembly members were inside the chamber,” Aguilar said. “It was very hectic, there were other organizations and lobbyists everywhere but I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. It was such an amazing learning experience.”
Events of this sort are particularly relevant given the current political climate, especially with young people taking initiative and starting social revolutions on topics that have been left aside by politicians. The high school students from the Parkland shooting and their ‘Never Again’ movement were brought up several times during the day and this fueled the students’ determination to stand up to their elected officials and make their voices heard.
This idea of challenging the leaders resonates with Levi Castle, Queens NYPIRG Chapter Board Representative.
“Defending Higher Education in New York State is important because it is the lifeline for the working class citizen to raise themselves out of hardship and into a healthy, stable middle class or better,” Castle said. “It is important that students are aware and active in this process, that’s why I work very hard along with NYPIRG to get students organized and ready to demand the security of their future lawmakers and key public figures that decide how high education gets funded.”
The success of this day is also due to the consistent support and commitment of the University Student Senate of the City University of New York (USS), State University of New York Student Assembly (SUNY-SA), New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and United University Professions (UUP).