Andrew Hamilton made affordability his priority when he became NYU’s president. To help progress this goal, he created an affordability steering committee, and the committee started a website — or IdeaScale — where students, faculty and staff can pitch ideas to reduce university costs.
But talk about this website has been a bit quiet, even though NYU released its new affordability initiatives a few weeks ago.
Member of the Affordability Steering Committee and a professor of politics David Stasavage said that while the committee does not implement policies, the team directs suggestions from the website to the university’s administration.
“The committee meets regularly and provides suggestions about what to be done,” Stasavage said. “And parallel to the committee, there’s a working group of staff who are actually involved in the actual implementation.”
Ellen Schall, the steering committee’s chair and a professor of health policy and management, said that many people actively contribute ideas to the website: 55 percent from students, 30 percent from administrators, nine percent from faculty and four percent from alumni.
“While it is a little too soon to measure the success of these early efforts, we are confident that we will be successful in reducing the cost of textbooks and offering lower cost meal plan options, over the next year,” Schall said. “The introduction of Verba, the online software tool, that searches for the most competitive pricing, is particularly promising. NYU’s partnership with SCHOLLY, offering NYU students free access to a portfolio of $420 million in scholarships, is also exciting.”
She said that the university has also identified $10 million in administrative savings through a combination of energy efficiencies and savings in IT and procurement.
Stasavage said that some of the major issues brought to the committee’s attention via the website included textbook prices, required minimum meal plans and housing costs. The committee has taken action to address the high prices students pay for textbooks.
“Frankly, I’m not sure that the textbook issue would have been on the committee’s radar were it not for IdeaScale, and it came through loud and clear that a lot of people were concerned about the price of textbooks,” Stasavage said. “So what’s been done now is the university’s gone through investigating various ways in which textbooks can be provided more inexpensively, or else in some cases finding out ways in which professors can shift to means of delivering materials electronically that don’t require students to actually purchase a text.”
He also said that the committee is working to find ways around locking students into a certain meal plan at the beginning of the year and to find more affordable housing for students.
“Dorms are expensive and that comes from the fact that we’re in the most exciting city on Earth, but it’s also one of the most expensive cities on Earth,” Stasavage said. “So, for some students, we did get the idea of developing this intergenerational partnership plan for students to potentially stay with older folks — I think some students will avail themselves to that option.”
He said that the committee seems aware of the high housing prices and is actively working to fix them, even though there does not seem to be a general solution to high housing prices in New York City.
Tandon graduate student Fahim Chaudhury used the website to suggest that NYU should change the way it receives money.
“To make NYU more affordable, I suggested making NYU a partially public university like University of Delaware, which is a privately governed university that receives public funding,” Chaudhury said. “Also, of Cornell University’s seven undergraduate colleges, three are state-supported statutory or contract colleges through the State University of New York system.”
Chaudhury also said that while his suggestion has not yet been implemented, he believes the forum is beneficial.
Susan Stehlik, a steering committee member and clinical associate professor of management communication at Stern School of Business, hopes that the affordability committee is successful so that students can enjoy the full college experience, rather than rush and graduate early to save money.
“There is something to be said about the maturation process and the delicate time period between 17 and 21 where you really grow up, and your experiences with other people at school are so critical,” Stehlik said. “These are people that you should be bonding with for life. If we rush that, and it’s all just about the academic experience, I worry that you’re not getting the full experience.”
Email Natasha Roy at [email protected]