The Executive Committee of the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) is cautiously optimistic about Governor Cuomo’s proposal to “offer free tuition at SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges” via the ‘Excelsior Scholarship’. We agree with Governor Cuomo’s statement that college should be “accessible to all, not a luxury that only the wealthy can afford” (email communication from Office of the Governor, dated January 3, 2017). The Executive Committee looks forward to receiving further details on the Governor’s proposal, and to continue advocating for this benefit to include all CUNY and SUNY students regardless of income, citizenship status, or status as full-time or part-time students.
Over the years, the DSC has adopted several resolutions to freeze tuition (as recently as October 21, 2016), as well as a resolution affirming the DSC’s long-term advocacy for tuition-free public higher education. In Fall 2015, the DSC participated in a coordinated campaign for increased investment in CUNY’s infrastructure vis-a-vis the Maintenance of Effort bill (MOE), which was vetoed by Governor Cuomo on December 11, 2015. Free public higher education will go a long way in reducing the barriers many New Yorkers face in accessing higher education, as well as barriers CUNY students face when trying to graduate, but it is only part of the overall investment in public education that the state must prioritize. A crumbling infrastructure with courses taught by underpaid and precarious adjunct professors is just as much a barrier to a world-class education as paying tuition. We hope that Governor Cuomo will now also propose to rectify the state’s deep-rooted and ongoing disinvestment in CUNY’s infrastructure and workforce.