Students Remain Wary as University Announces Affordability Plans

Anne Cruz
Amid claims that NYU does not foster an inclusive environment for people of color, a new lawsuit against the university claims that an employee faced discrimination in his time here.

NYU’s administrators have pledged their commitment for improving financial aid for students, as evidenced by recent emails to the NYU community from President Andrew Hamilton and CAS Dean
Gabrielle Starr.

NYU’s cost of attendance is one of the highest in the United States, which has been a point of contention for students who have gone to extremes to pay tuition.

In his email to the NYU community on Thursday afternoon, Hamilton introduced drastic changes the university would make for the upcoming academic year. The changes stated in the email have been listed below:

-”NYU will reduce its planned increase in tuition and fees from a typical range of 3.5 – 3.9 percent annually to 2.9 percent for most of its undergraduate programs for the coming year, the lowest increase in 20 years.

-NYU will freeze housing and meal plan costs for 2016-17 at the current year’s rates.

-NYU will freeze the University registration and services fee.

-NYU will convert an additional 600–700 student rooms to lower-cost housing, increasing the pool of lower-cost housing by almost 50 percent.”

Hamilton’s email was followed by an email from Dean Starr to students and faculty within the College of Arts and Science on Friday. Starr announced that in addition to the university-wide changes Hamilton listed, CAS would eliminate its $55 academic support fee starting in Fall of 2016.

“While this step is only one, we know each step that we take gets us closer to our goal of making NYU more affordable for everyone,” the email read.

Hamilton cited the university’s small endowment per student as the reason for limited financial aid, but some students remain unconvinced that NYU’s existing endowment is being invested responsibly.

CAS senior and Student Labor Action Movement member Haley Quinn said NYU’s current investing of the university’s endowment prioritizes billionaires over students.

“If NYU is concerned with increasing diversity and improving affordability, they should take a look at how the endowment is invested,” Quinn said. “The average university endowment is 19 percent invested in hedge funds and 45 percent of NYU’s endowment is in hedge funds, despite them having the worst year on record in 2014 and being a consistently bad investment since 2002.”

University spokesman John Beckman said NYU’s endowment is invested to generate income that supports current programs and to increase the endowment for future university members.

“The one and only purpose for investing the endowments is to serve NYU’s academic mission,” Beckman said.

Beckman also refuted claims that investments in hedge funds were for the benefit of Board of Trustee members who are also members of the finance industry.

“Members of the NYU Board of Trustees, like the board of any non-profit, are under a legal obligation: they are ‘fiduciaries’ — that means that in taking on the role of trustees, they are legally required to put the interests of the University ahead of other interests,” Beckman said. “Their stewardship of the endowment demonstrates that — it has more than tripled in the last 15 years, which means more money to support NYU and its students.”

Gallatin alumna and founder of NYU Divest Sophie Lasoff said Hamilton’s statement was a welcome one, but that more could always be done to alleviate financial burden
for students.

“It’s encouraging that President Hamilton is already demonstrating interest and commitment to addressing affordability at NYU, but the measures he has proposed are far from enough,” Lasoff said. “Until conditions really improve for those who are financially suffering, Andy’s work is not done.”

A version of this story appeared in the Monday, Feb. 22 print issue. Email Anne Cruz at [email protected] 

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