CUNY Prepares for More Student Protests

As City University of New York trustees prepare to vote Monday afternoon on a series of tuition increases over the next few years, the school system is bracing for a possible repeat of the conflict that marred last week’s hearing on the increases.

University officials said security would be higher than at last week’s session in the same place, at Baruch College in Manhattan, when protesters scuffled with campus public safety officers and 15 people were arrested.

Baruch’s president, Mitchel Wallerstein, has called off classes after 3 p.m. in the building where the board’s meetings take place, the Newman Vertical Campus on 25th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. The meeting is set for 4:30 p.m.

Protesters from multiple groups will converge on the building, with some marching there from Madison Square Park.

Last summer, state lawmakers authorized the State University of New York and CUNY to increase tuition by up to $300 per year for five years, and each system made the allowed increase for the current school year. Last week, SUNY adopted the increases for the next four years, and CUNY is expected to do so on Monday.

For full-time undergraduate students at CUNY, the increases would take annual tuition from $4,830 last school year to $6,330 in 2015-16 – still far below the current national average for public colleges, $8,240, according to the College Board.

CUNY officials say that the increase is needed to compensate for declining government support, and that between state and federal aid grants, almost half of CUNY undergraduates pay no tuition.

In a prepared statement, the CUNY chancellor Matthew Goldstein, said that higher tuition revenue would mean “the protection of our faculty and staff from the kinds of layoffs that other public higher education systems have experienced in recent years.”

Elizabeth Sibilia, a spokeswoman for Occupy CUNY, one of the protesting groups, said the trustees had failed in their role to push back against budget cuts from Albany, while “the state is removing itself from that historic commitment to public higher education.”

The board is also expected to vote on proposals to increase financial aid and work-study opportunities to help the lowest-income students cover the increase.

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