One of the first things NYU’s President Andrew Hamilton did upon assuming office was make affordability a top priority, but has still not effectively met the needs of students at NYU. As a result of Hamilton’s efforts, the Affordability Steering Committee was put together in February 2016 with four NYU students included as members to weigh in on affordability decisions. The task force’s most recent update was on May 12, 2017, when it provided a year-end update and a prediction for what would happen in the coming year. These efforts, while helpful, are woefully inadequate. For the 2017-2018 academic year, the cost of attendance increased by 2.9 percent, and the cost of dorming for incoming freshman will increase by 0.6 percent. The minimum wage at NYU jumped to $12 an hour for the 2016-2017 academic year, $13.50 for the 2017-2018 academic year and will finally reach $15 an hour for the 2018-2019 academic year. Additionally, 1,000 fewer textbooks were required for the spring semester, and 50 low-cost bedrooms have been added to the dorms.
NYU’s measures for increasing affordability were released Sept. 12, 2017, which reiterated some of the points made in the year-end statement, and added that each school now has an acceleration advisor to help students who may need to graduate in fewer than eight semesters, Professional Edge which teaches career skills to students at no extra cost, a textbook scholarship and general scholarship fundraising.
The cost of tuition, which is already a whopping $50,464 per year for 12 to 18 credits at the College of Arts and Science — not including textbooks, housing, health insurance and the meal plan — is still increasing year over year, regardless of the increase being the the lowest we have seen in over two decades. As for the minimum wage going up to $15, NYU only allows students to work 20 hours per week total at all of their campus jobs. If they work the maximum hours at the $15 an hour wage, after taxes they would make $255 a week, or $3,825 in a 15-week semester. This is only 15 percent of the lowest possible amount of tuition, which leaves the other 85 percent still unpaid. Though NYU has a reputation of being a school for rich kids, there are people from all socioeconomic classes in attendance who are acquiring massive amounts of debt.
While it is true that NYU’s tuition isn’t much more than that of its neighboring schools, as the memo points out, the amount of financial aid we award pales in comparison to similar schools. Schools in the Ivy league, including our neighbour, Columbia, cover 100 percent of incoming students’ financial needs. NYU is notably absent from that list. We claim to have the same prestige as an Ivy League school, but fail to mete out aid in the same way.
It is admirable for Hamilton to make affordability a top priority, and these changes are certainly an improvement on the previous financial programs. However, we cannot pretend that these steps are enough to protect students from the burden of debt. When the average NYU graduate is nearly $30,000 in debt, more serious steps than adding 50 more low-cost rooms are needed.
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Email Beth Sattur at [email protected].