Standing For a Fully Funded CUNY: NYPIRG Going To Albany

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After budget cuts, layoffs, and tuition hikes, students and faculty at Queens College and other CUNY schools are ready to advocate for and protect higher education.

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) chapter at Queens College is planning to rally at Albany for Higher Education Action Day on February 28th. NYPIRG and other attendees hope for a free and fully-funded CUNY, financial aid services, and more on-campus advisors.

NYPIRG is the student advocacy group at Queens College, and it is the largest student-directed non-profit organization in New York, with multiple chapters across the state. Fighting for social change, NYPIRG’s Higher Education Action Day aims to amplify the voices of students and faculty.

“Every Higher Education Action Day, our goal is to mobilize hundreds of students to advocate for the free and fully-funded higher education that they deserve. Because despite what Mayor Eric Adams might think, Queens College is not for sale,” Queens College NYPIRG Project Coordinators Scott Smith and Devra Baxter said.

NYPIRG remains adamant that investments in CUNY are investments in the futures of its students, and in turn, a greater future for New York. However, budget cuts and inaccessibility to financial aid threaten both students’ ability to thrive as well as the livelihoods of CUNY faculty.

“In November 2023, the revised municipal budget included $23 million in budget cuts to the CUNY system, forcing nine CUNY schools to cut staff. Here at QC, we lost 26 full-time faculty. 26 professors no longer have access to their income and health insurance. That’s hundreds of students who had to scramble to find new classes — running the risk of losing eligibility for financial aid,” Smith and Baxter said.

Eligibility for financial aid, specifically the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), requires a minimum of twelve credits per semester. Canceling classes risks ineligibility for financial aid. Additionally, last minute enrollment interferes with a student’s planned schedule.

Stephany Siavichay, a senior and NYPIRG intern said advocating for higher education means, “Affording to go to college, fight for affordable college and with equal education.” For students, receiving a higher education opens the path for opportunities. If a student cannot afford tuition or receive on-campus support, then students will not access these career opportunities.

The New Deal for CUNY is one of the solutions NYPIRG advocates for during Higher Education Action Day, as it supports the goal of a free and fully funded CUNY/SUNY. NYPIRG also hopes to reform TAP to expand eligibility and advocate for student support programs — for example, mental health counseling. The rally at Albany will be accompanied by lobby meetings.

Ultimately, NYPIRG hopes students’ concerns are heard by their local and state politicians to protect their — and further generations’ — futures.

In a final comment, Smith and Baxter said, “We hope that students are impacted not only by the wins in the state budget that we will be fighting to achieve, but also by feeling empowered to participate more thoroughly in our political system. Students and young people have so much power as the largest voting bloc, and we hope to show them that when we come together to fight for our interests collectively, we can make our voice heard loud enough to cause real change!”

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