On Thursday, NYU’s new president Andrew Hamilton sent out an email to the NYU community. In it, he elaborated on the contents of his recent proposal to the University Senate, which included planned reductions of tuition and student fee increases, as well as freezes on housing and meal increases. Hamilton maintains that the resultant two percent increase in cost of attendance would be the lowest in the past 20 years. The email clarified that the ultimate goal of reducing the overall cost of attendance at NYU would only be achieved in the long-term. Hamilton’s proposals set a good short-term precedent for his administration, but in light of Sexton’s leftover projects, the direction in which Hamilton will eventually take the university is still unclear.
Hamilton’s email at least revealed that his administration is willing to talk to students like adults. The budget proposals help address the major drivers of attendance costs with modest but direct measures. It is encouraging that these measures have been paired with a commitment to reduce spending, and it signals that Hamilton understands the struggle of students and willing to do something about it. At the same time, Hamilton is very upfront about the enormity of the task before him. Unlike Sexton, who was content to leave the public in the dark, Hamilton acknowledges that solving the affordability crisis will be an ongoing and difficult process.
In order to begin this process, Hamilton will have to take a good long look at the direction that NYU will move in. Unpopular and expensive projects like NYU 2031 are still underway, underscoring the fact that affordability needs to be a critical aspect of the university’s mission. Fee freezes and affordable housing are nice, but these Sexton-era projects are ultimately the source of many of the university’s long-term financial concerns. Hamilton recognizes that affordability is an enormous problem, but tackling it requires an enormous shift in priorities to match. If he really is committed to steering the university towards affordability, then Hamilton needs to publicly reckon with the sustainability of these projects.
While President Hamilton is integral to NYU’s future course, he is not solely responsible for the direction of the university. In order to secure a trend of lowering tuition increases and costs, Hamilton must push his proposal through the bureaucracy of the board of directors. This moment will set a precedent not only for Hamilton’s relationship towards students, but also for his influence with the administration as a whole. If his proposals are not able to go through, the obstinacy of the board will keep business as usual. If his proposals can go through, then the fate of the university rests in his hands. Let’s hope that affordability will remain top priority.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 22 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included NYU Abu Dhabi in a list of NYU’s expensive projects, when in fact the construction of the campus and day-to-day operations are funded by the Abu Dhabi government.