NYU fundraising, spending choices ridiculous

WSN Editorial Board

NYU’s paltry approach to financial aid is no secret: only 3 percent of students have their full financial needs met and graduates have student debt over $5,000 higher than the national average. While the administration should be rightfully proud that record numbers of students apply each year, more must be done to ensure that all students can afford to come here and graduate without a financial anvil around their necks.

Last October, NYU President John Sexton emailed the Class of 2015 and encouraged them to contribute to the 1831 Fund, an initiative to “create scholarships for students, by students.” Given that NYU students consistently graduate with a large amount of debt, it is unreasonable to ask seniors who have not yet graduated to donate. NYU must meet the needs of existing and incoming students before all other endeavors, including and especially continuing its wild expansion.

Under the 1831 Fund, seniors are encouraged to give a donation of $18.31 or more. On their website, the Fund gives reasons why seniors should donate even if they did not receive financial aid as an incoming freshman. “It kind of makes you a hero,” begins one answer. Given that so many NYU students struggle to make ends meet, this comment — and this entire campaign — comes across as tone-deaf and oblivious to students’ financial realities.

Despite having a significantly smaller endowment than universities like Columbia or Harvard, NYU’s stands at $3.5 billion. The 2031 expansion plan has been estimated to cost $6 billion, one of the many reasons it has been so vehemently opposed within the NYU community. This type of financial mismanagement can also be seen in the university’s allocation of loans to administrators. The New York University School of Law Foundation gave Sexton a $1 million loan, which he used to purchase a beach house on Fire Island. This use of the university’s funds is unbelievably inappropriate.

It is unsurprising that Sexton is appealing to this year’s graduating class — NYU consistently ranks highly on lists of schools with the wealthiest alumni pool. The NYU Medical Center on First Avenue was renamed NYU Langone Center in 2008 after a second $100 million donation from Kenneth Langone, cofounder of Home Depot. Sexton would do well to tap into these sorts of resources rather than treating existing students as profit centers.

NYU is one of the most expensive private universities in the nation. In 2012, it had a tuition net price of $37,656 per year, well over the national average of $20,247. It is inexcusable for NYU to solicit donations from its students while simultaneously charging them exorbitantly high tuition costs.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 25 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected].