NYU is increasing undergraduate tuition for the upcoming 2021-22 academic year by $1,620, from $54,880 to $56,500. This figure does not include additional expenses such as housing, transportation or insurance. However, the university announced plans to continue disbursing COVID-19 relief grants — accessible through Albert — throughout the next semester.
“Recognizing that students continue to be negatively impacted by the pandemic, the NYU COVID-19 Relief Grant will be available beyond this spring semester,” NYU spokesperson Shonna Keogan wrote in an email to WSN.
NYU has been criticized for years for failing to increase affordability. The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to unemployment and unforeseen medical and transportation expenses for many students and their families, exacerbated the issue. Starting March 2020, the university distributed an initial $24 million — received as part of the CARES Act — in emergency funding to students. That summer, the university increased tuition by 2.95%.
During his 2016 inauguration speech, University President Andrew Hamilton acknowledged that NYU places an unacceptable financial burden on students. In the years since Hamilton’s inauguration, the university has announced a number of measures intended to reduce the financial burden of attendance. Yet the university remains one of the least affordable higher education institutions in the United States. For the past decade, the cost of attendance has increased by approximately 3% per year, often outpacing increases in median family income.
NYU received an additional $37.4 million from the federal government in December 2020, which was also disbursed to students with demonstrated financial need. According to the university, COVID-19 grant applications are reviewed daily, while funds are distributed to students biweekly. CAS first-year Tina Ge was one of the students who received a COVID-19 Relief Grant.
“I just got notified one day that $3,000 was going to be deposited into my account,” Ge said. “I had just woken up and I received the email, and I was like, ‘This is going to be really good because it’s going to help’ … There was also a COVID grant back in the fall semester and I did apply for that. I got $700.”
However, students such as CAS first-year Luqman Gbadamassi are concerned that these measures are merely short-term solutions to the issue of affordability. They argue the university must do more to address this long-term issue.
“I would say that the COVID relief grant is good short-term support, especially for many students,” Gbadamassi told WSN. “In terms of increased tuition … salaries aren’t going up at the same rate and we are still in COVID times. So, this tuition increase is going to make NYU even more exclusive than it already is, not just academic-wise but also monetary-wise — and it won’t be easy for many students to attend.”
Ge noted that the university provides limited financial aid for international students.
“NYU won’t meet the demonstrated need of every single student that does get admitted, and I just happened to be one of those students who didn’t get the need that they needed,” Ge said. “My experience at NYU has been really great so far, but the finances do put a lot of burden on specifically international students’ shoulders.”
Jda Gayle, a Graduate School of Arts and Science graduate student and course assistant at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, said that while NYU’s financial aid has benefited her, it is impossible to meet the cost of living in New York City as a graduate student.
“[Financial aid is] not enough,” Gayle said. “It’s definitely generous because, on the one hand, if it didn’t exist then I wouldn’t be able to go to NYU. But on the other hand, tuition is not the only expense … They definitely don’t give enough to address the cost of living in New York City, or NYU doesn’t offer any kind of subsidized housing for students.”
Columbia University recently announced a new $1.4 billion funding campaign to increase financial aid for students. The university made the announcement three days after students voted to end a tuition strike organized by the Columbia-Barnard chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America. The NYU chapter of YDSA recently announced its own tuition strike, calling for the university to lower the cost of attendance and increase financial aid, among other demands. NYU students have expressed support for the tuition strike.
“I think the tuition strike is great,” LS first-year Aria Young said. “I think it’s awesome and I signed the pledge.”
“I support the strike because obviously I don’t really want to pay tuition,” Gbadamassi agreed. “Spreading the word is important, so we can come together as a community … NYU should listen to their students and try to find ways to redirect funds.”
Jake Colosa, co-chair of NYU YDSA, explained that increasing tuition only exacerbates financial burdens for students. In light of this, COVID-19 Relief Grants are insufficient and will not actually support students in the long-term.
“In my opinion, [the COVID Relief Grants] feels more like a publicity thing than something that’s actually meant to help students, which is pretty disappointing,” Colosa told WSN. “I think the increase in tuition is similar to the maximum amount that you can get from the COVID Relief Grant … Ultimately, NYU is just cancelling that money out with the new tuition that they’re getting.”
When asked whether they intend to conduct a campaign to increase financial aid funding similarly to Columbia, NYU declined to answer.
“We can’t comment on any actions Columbia University might be taking,” Keogan wrote.
Meanwhile, the tuition strike at NYU seeks to add student representation to the Board of Trustees in order to address the issue of unaffordability.
“I think it’s clear that college administrations are never going to credit student activism to the changes that they make,” Colosa said. “I think that having students have an input on the board — actually having a say on these financial matters — would help create a university where tuition isn’t increasing by thousands of dollars every year and rapidly becoming unaffordable for most of its students.”
Email Nina Huang at [email protected]