Opinion: NYU’s Silver School of Social Work should be tuition-free

New York City has the highest demand for social workers of any city in the country. NYU should make tuition free to fill that demand.


Emily Sorkin

The Silver School of Social Work at NYU is located at 1 Washington Square North. (Emily Sorkin for WSN)

Noah Zaldivar, Contributing Writer

Although gratifying, the field of social work is stressful and emotionally taxing. In their interactions with clients and communities, social workers often encounter feelings of burnout from working in tough environments. On top of low pay, they have to deal with the stigma surrounding a profession that is associated with breaking up families. As if all of these barriers weren’t enough, college is expensive for those who seek a degree in social work.

Tuition at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work costs around $60,000 per year, not including housing, even though the median income for the profession as of 2021 is only about $50,000. In New York City, 423 schools under the New York City Department of Education don’t employ any social workers, and while most others don’t hire an adequate number of social workers to serve all of its students. In a city with such high demand for social workers, there is something NYU can do to remedy the problem — make Silver tuition-free.

In 2018, the Grossman School of Medicine made its medical school free for all students, regardless of economic background or circumstance. This was, and continues to be, an important decision, providing a large amount of relief for an industry that has seen a workforce deficit in recent years. Most claim this has to do with the stresses of paying off student loans, which has created a strain on the number of doctors in the United States.

Free schooling would go a long way to encourage more people to join the social work profession. It would also allow for more socioeconomic diversity in a job where understanding the perspectives of the underprivileged is not only important, but essential. Two-thirds of new social workers reported that over half of their clients were living below the federal level poverty line in New York City

There are programs in place like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan, which helps alleviate debt in public service careers. The immediate benefits of making college free for these students would render that plan obsolete.

Of course, there would still be obstacles in place preventing students from having access to a free social work education. For starters, it took NYU 11 years to raise the $450 million necessary to establish its free medical school. The reason for that was because doctors have a clear and present use in society. It was a justifiable expense to put more doctors out into the field. Social workers should be seen as equally necessary — social workers should be seen as just as important as doctors and should be subsidized in the same way.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Noah Zaldivar at [email protected].