Hundreds of CUNY students and sympathizers protested while the board of trustees met at Ba-ruch College
The first of those increases, to $5,130, already took effect this year. The board’s 15-to-1 vote will raise tuition for undergraduates at CUNY’s four-year colleges to $6,330 in 2015-16
, with about $500 a year in additional fees. The State University system’s trustees recently approved a set of parallel increases.
Hundreds of students at Baruch College in Manhattan took to the street outside the building where the board met, chanting “Abolish the board of trustees” and “CUNY must be free,” banging drums and waving signs, and protesting that students could not afford an increase that will reach 31 percent over five years.
They were joined by a large contingent of professors and scattered supporters from labor unions and other groups.
Anticipating the protest, Baruch had canceled Monday classes in the building after 3 p.m., and prohibited routine foot traffic in and out.
Last week, the board’s hearing on the proposed tuition increases drew a similar response. Protesters scuffled with university security forces and New York police officers, and 15 were arrested. The Police Department said that three people were arrested in the demonstration on Monday.
Inside, on the 14th floor of Baruch’s William and Anita Newman Vertical Campus Building, the trustees and the CUNY chancellor, Matthew Goldstein, said they had little choice but to raise tuition, to compensate for sharply lowered support from the state in recent years.
Dr. Goldstein said the increase was intended, in part, for “the protection of our faculty and staff from the kinds of layoffs that other public higher education systems have experienced in recent years,” which he said would be unavoidable otherwise. He also said he would ask an outside expert, as yet unidentified, to review the handling of the demonstration last week.
Protesters insisted either that CUNY has the money in its budget to avoid raising tuition, or that it had not pushed back hard enough against lawmakers in Albany who reduced state support. Many cast their arguments in terms of race or class, arguing that the trustees were out of touch with the student body, which is heavily made up of low-income and minority students.
“The board of trustees are mostly successful business people, and they’re basically trying to run a public institution as a business, which it is not,” said Jamie Yancovitz, 23, a student at CUNY’s Graduate Center in Manhattan. “They don’t get what it’s like for us.”
Barbara Bowen, president of the university’s Professional Staff Congress, called the increases “a failed budget strategy,” adding that “a long-term plan for state and city investment would make much more sense.”
About 100 people were allowed into the board meeting, and at least one was escorted out after disrupting the session.
CUNY will remain far less expensive than most public university systems around the country, which average $8,240 in tuition and fees in 2011, according to the College Board. The contrast with other schools in the Northeast is especially stark; tuition and fees run to $6,306 or more this year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, $8,874 at the University of Connecticut, and $12,755 at Rutgers.
In addition, university officials said that by using both state and federal aid, 44 percent of CUNY undergraduates paid no tuition at all. The trustees approved $5 million in new aid to offset the tuition increase for the poorest students.
CUNY did not charge tuition until the 1970s. Since the mid-1990s, it has raised its prices much less quickly than the typical university, public or private.
Tuition at both CUNY and SUNY must be approved by the State Legislature, and until recently, lawmakers were loath to approve increases. As a result, both systems sometimes went years without raising tuition, followed by sudden increases of up to 30 percent.
Last summer, the Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo enacted a law that allows the public universities to raise tuition by $300 a year for five years.