A resolution addressing the financial burdens of NYU students due to the COVID-19 pandemic is heading to the University Senate today, March 25, after passing through the Student Senators Council and Student Government Assembly. If recommended by the Senate, the resolution will make its way to university leadership. If approved by leadership, it will then move to the Board of Trustees.
The resolution and vote come after the university, predicting pandemic-related costs and budget losses of $300 million, increased tuition for the 2020-21 academic year by 2.95% in the summer of 2020. Tuition for the 2021-22 school year will be made public in April, according to the Center for Urban Science and Progress.
“There are certain inequalities that have already existed within NYU that were exacerbated by the pandemic, and even more so created an urgent need to address the financial issues that a lot of students face,” SGA Financial Affairs committee member and Steinhardt sophomore Anthony Cruz told WSN via FaceTime. “Creating this resolution was a natural product of what is going on.”
The resolution opens with a preamble outlining the pandemic’s effects on NYU and its students — as well as acknowledging the university’s financial struggles — and continues with a description of the university’s response to the pandemic and its impacts on students. It then lists student resolutions demanding that the university administration freeze tuition increases for students facing financial difficulties, reevaluate tuition increases for the upcoming year and increase tuition and financial aid proportionally.
In progress since Nov. 2020, the resolution was authored by Ryan Carney, the SGA Director of Finance, Shamon Lawrence, the Senator at-Large for Black Students and Students Experiencing Food Insecurity, and SGA Financial Affairs committee members Spencer Asch, Ron Hall, Raadiya Shardow and Cruz.
In addition to demanding that NYU not raise tuition for students facing financial difficulties, the resolution also asks that the university consider launching fundraising campaigns among the Board of Trustees (similar to Campaign for NYU), audit bursar bills for students studying remotely, address the need for remote learning technology and disburse technology grants for the duration of online instruction.
“We have handled the impact of COVID-19 by carefully managing our budget, freezing salaries, and eliminating all unnecessary expenses,” NYU Spokesperson John Beckman wrote in a statement to WSN. “These moves allowed us to carry on without the kind of wide-scale programs of lay-offs, furloughs, or cutting of retirement contributions that happened at other universities while providing more aid to students, not less.”
According to Cruz, the NYU Board of Trustees determines tuition increases and has a schedule set years in advance, but according to Beckman, the university has not finalized next year’s budget and tuition has not yet been set. William R. Berkeley, the chair of the Board of Trustees, did not respond to a request for comment.
Cruz hopes the resolution will “put a pause” on NYU tuition’s upward trend. He proposes that, given any increase in tuition, the university should commit to proportionally increasing financial aid packages. Currently, the amount of financial aid a student receives remains the same throughout all four years of their undergraduate career despite changes in tuition.
“The choice is still to rely on students and tuition, while a primary weakness in the economy is how students and families are doing,” Cruz said. “I understand that it would be more difficult to make up a deficit if you have less money to work with, but in terms of the empathy and compassion that’s needed in higher education, it is not being extended to students right now.”
Since the start of the pandemic, NYU students have received financial aid through the first and second rounds of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and $37.4 million in grant funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
The university has also activated the COVID-19 Relief Grant application on Albert for graduate students and non-U.S. citizens, according to Beckman. The NYU Student Emergency Fund program and Scholarship Appeal for Undergraduate Students are also available for those whose financial circumstances have changed.
“The total additional COVID-related financial support that NYU has dedicated to student aid is over $68 million,” Beckman said. “In a year in which the university suffered COVID-related losses and costs that total more than $300 million, NYU has actually provided more funding for student aid.”
According to Carney, a Global Liberal Studies sophomore, the university could improve its communication with students and its process of releasing information so that students know when and how to apply for financial aid.
Jenni Freda, a CAS senior who pays for her tuition with student loans and scholarships, had to find the funds to move into an apartment last spring and set up an area for schoolwork at home after student residence halls closed due to the pandemic.
“I had to beg the loan office and NYU to give me extra money,” Freda said. “When NYU announced it would be increasing the tuition last school year, it affected everything I was paying for and the loans that I had. During a time when no one is on campus and utilizing facilities, a lot of students I’m friends with had to drop out from the increasing tuition.”
Lawrence, a Steinhardt sophomore, also noted that a primary cause of food insecurity is a lack of financial mobility, which is reinforced by tuition increases.
“While NYU has acknowledged the impact of COVID-19, there has been no steps to make this experience better for students who may be experiencing new financial insecurities or difficulties that came from the pandemic,” Lawrence told WSN over FaceTime. “Specifically for tuition and fees, the university has taken a stance and prioritized their expenditures.”
At the April 1 SGA meeting, Cruz will put three resolutions to a vote. One of the resolutions — following in the footsteps of previous attempts — proposes that students, faculty, deans and administrative managers be added to the Board of Trustees as voting representatives or non-voting observers at meetings.
In addition to the resolutions, Cruz said that Steinhardt’s Undergraduate Student Government’s advocacy committee is writing a letter to the state legislature asking for the state of New York to increase its financial aid. Meanwhile, Carney wants the university to consult students before deciding tuition for the 2021-22 academic year.
“I hope that when they determine the tuition, they talk to students,” Carney said. “Students are suffering financially and we believe that NYU isn’t doing enough for them.”
Email Rachel Cohen at [email protected]