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BP Adams unveils IBO analysis of proposal for free tuition at NYC community colleges

January 12, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams announced on Tuesday that a cost analysis of reinstating free tuition for two-year community colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system highlights the potential to improve graduation rates, which could lead to increased earnings potential and taxpayer contribution, as well as expand access to higher education.

The report, completed by the Independent Budget Office of New York City (IBO) at his request following President Barack Obama’s call during last year’s State of the Union address, found that eliminating tuition for CUNY community colleges would cost the City $3,456 per student per year.

Based on this study, including its attention to the impact of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which offer free tuition with support services such as tutoring, career services and assistance with transportation and the cost of textbooks, Adams urged the CUNY board of trustees to examine the feasibility of free tuition for community college students and expansion of ASAP.

In addition, while applauding the state’s reported efforts to work with the White House on tuition-free community college, he called on this year’s budget to provide short-term assistance, increasing its contribution to the CUNY community college operating budget to equal one-third of total funding — with the other thirds coming from the city and student tuitions — which he estimated would reduce overall student burden by over $10 million.

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“The IBO’s analysis reinforces my belief that tuition-free community college is the future for New York City, and it is time to take steps toward achieving it,” said Adams.

“Our community colleges offer students an opportunity to develop their skills and to prepare for success in their careers,” Adams continued. “For many students, the cost of tuition prevents them from completing an associate’s degree or substantially delays their completion. As a result, thousands of people each year are denied the benefits of graduation, which would allow them to achieve the American Dream and robustly contribute to our economy.”

The cost analysis found that an estimated annual expenditure between $138 million to $232 million would provide for free tuition for every CUNY community college student, both full time and part time, for as many years as are required to graduate. Potential restrictions on the free tuition program, such as limiting participation to a specified number of years or eliminating tuition only for full-time students, would substantially reduce the cost of the program.

Included in the IBO’s investigation were findings that the ASAP program nearly doubled graduation rates in a three-year period, as well as an apparent imbalance in CUNY funding support from city and state sources, leading to a heavy reliance upon tuition to support CUNY’s operating budget. According to the report, the annual budget of CUNY community colleges in Fiscal Year 2015 totaled $973 million, with 27 percent of this funding coming from the state, 31.5 percent from the city and 36 percent from students’ pockets.

“By reducing the tuition burden for city residents who attend our community colleges and providing the critical services that support our students, we will start to build success upon success, expanding opportunity for graduating classes of today and tomorrow,” said Adams.

“One year ago, President Obama challenged states and cities to work with the federal government to offer free tuition for community college. New York City now has the ability to become a leader in higher education by accepting that mission.” 

In addition to asking CUNY’s board of trustees to consider the benefits of free tuition for community college students, Adams also encouraged elected officials to work with each other in support of CUNY students by enacting the New York State Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide financial aid from the state for students who are undocumented immigrants, as well as reaching a fair conclusion to contract negotiations with CUNY faculty and staff members.


—Information from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office


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