NYU Should Not Look to Students for Donations
Feb 1, 2016
The recent $10 million donation to the Tisch School of the Arts is welcome news, and will give NYU’s actors, dancers and set technicians a new performance space to hone and showcase their many talents. The donation comes from philanthropist Iris Cantor, who has already given generously to NYU through her support of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Film Center. Generous donors, such as Leonard N. Stern, Michael H. Steinhardt, Chandrika Tandon and Robert F. Wagner have given money to other schools at NYU and were recognized accordingly. These donations often run into the millions of dollars and help the school provide students with an education that is world-renowned.
However, as well as taking donations from generous philanthropists, NYU calls on students to donate to other students in the form of The 1831 Fund, which former President John Sexton called “scholarships for students, by students.” Given that many students asked for money receive financial aid themselves, the university surely has no business asking them for donations, and shouldn’t have to regardless. As he begins his tenure as president of this university, Andrew Hamilton should continue to look toward alumni and donors, rather than current students, to finance NYU.
The reasons for this should seem obvious. Just three percent of NYU students have their full financial needs met by the school. The financial aid website for Columbia University, our spirited uptown rivals, on the other hand, promises to meet “100% of the demonstrated financial need for all first-years and transfers pursuing their first degree.” This is certainly a striking difference from NYU’s administrative attitude, characterized by its regular dismissiveness of current and prospective students’ concerns; when asked about an application fee waiver, Tisch Director of Graduate Admissions Dan Sandford responded that “If $65 is a hardship for you how will you be able to pay the tuition of $60,000?” For the sake of good press and practicality, NYU must look beyond students for additional funding.
Naturally, no course of action will please everyone, and some NYU students and alumni will invariably look gift horses in the mouth. Last fall, when the university changed the name of the engineering school after a $100 million donation from the Tandons, students and alumni were outraged at what is a startlingly common practice. A Change.org petition calling on the administration to not change the name from NYU Poly garnered some 1,500 signatures. But by looking to alumni and other generous donors, NYU can reduce the financial burden on students. I cannot imagine a petition calling on the administration to raise tuition fees and lower financial aid for students being popular, but if NYU does not accept and encourage outside donations, they may not have much choice.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 1 print edition. Email Tommy Collison at [email protected]