Letter to the Editor: ‘NYU’s Artificial Affordability Issue’

John Beckman, University Spokesperson

In last Monday’s editorial, “NYU’s Artificial Affordability Issue,” the WSN once again provides selective facts to make its case. So, it falls to me to provide the full picture:

  • Under the current administration, NYU’s position on the list of most expensive colleges has dropped 35 places — from 4th to 39th.
  • NYU spends nearly $340 million of university funds annually for undergraduate scholarship aid in New York — grants that don’t have to be repaid. Since 2017, the average grant has climbed 27% — it’s currently $34,700, a record high, and far higher than the figure the WSN chose to cite.
  • Unlike the national trend, average debt at graduation has been falling at NYU. In fewer than 10 years, it has fallen 18% and is below the national average for private, non-profit universities.
  • Through efforts initiated by the current administration, average per-student textbook costs have declined some 40%.
  • NYU was the first top-ranked med school to go tuition-free.
  • Under the current administration, we increased lower-cost housing in the student housing system and nearly one-third of the student housing system is now lower cost.
  • The Courtesy Meal Program was begun under the current administration, as was the provision in the dining contract to provide lower-cost meal options.

None of this is “artificial” — all of it is real. And all this, by the way, occurs against a backdrop of enrolling the most diverse, most selective and most academically qualified freshman class in NYU’s history; a rise from 57th to 18th in a decade in the NSF’s Higher Education Research & Development ranking; and a general rise in university rankings, including our highest spot ever in the U.S. News and World Report ranking, among other notable accomplishments.

It is worth pointing out that although NYU is the largest, private, non-profit research university in the country and is located in arguably the most expensive city in the U.S., Andy Hamilton’s salary barely makes the list of the top 20 private university president’s salaries, and, thus, is very much in line with the compensation of presidents of major urban research universities with medical centers, not an outlier.  

And while the WSN went out of its way to laud the donations of other university presidents to their universities, it chose to ignore the $250,000 in donations that its own president has made (here, here, and here).

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As has been explained to the WSN previously, John Sexton did not receive $11 million — that was an IRS-required estimate of his total retirement benefits over many years; his actual retirement package has been public for more than a decade. And while David McLaughlin retired from the Provost’s position, he did not retire from the faculty — he still teaches a full course load and conducts research; the compensation on the 990 reflects in large measure his salary as a working faculty member.

It’s not inappropriate for a student newspaper to hold a university’s feet to the fire. But it does a public disservice to use only a fraction of the facts mixed with assertion in an effort to support their position. That’s what I consider artificial.

John Beckman is NYU’s Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Strategic Communications.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 print edition. Email John Beckman at [email protected]

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