Almost three years ago, I wrote a blog post for Street Carnage criticizing anyone (and their parents) stupid enough to pay $40,000+ a year for their undergrad education. I think the points I made there still hold true, but the sort of extravagance I was criticizing then is distinctly pre-Great Recession. In expectance of 2012’s economic / Mayan hell-scape, the issue at hand isn’t ridiculously overpaying for college, but paying even one cent more for it.
Yesterday, there was a rally held at my alma mater, Baruch College, to protest a proposed tuition hike of $300 each year for the next four years. The amount may not seem like much compared to Baruch College’s current tuition (nearly $6,000 a year) and especially compared to that of private universities in New York ($40,000+), yet hundreds turned out. That was partially due to the events of last week, when a smaller group of peaceful protestors were violently confronted by NYPD, but also due to the feeling that the tuition increase just wasn’t right.
Baruch College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY), a collection of public schools of higher education that were founded as a state-funded alternative to the city’s private universities, which many New Yorkers could not afford. Initially, CUNY schools were completely free and served as a means of socio-economic mobilization for the city’s working class — the manifestation of the democratic spirit and the American Dream if there ever was one.
During the 1970s, New York City went broke and funding for CUNY schools evaporated, forcing them to charge students tuition for the first time. Since then, tuition has been on the rise, regularly justified by the CUNY Board of Trustees with complaints of funding cuts from the Mayor’s Office, or Albany, or Washington D.C.
But, like I said, when the latest rounds of tuition hikes were up for consideration by the CUNY Board of Trustees, hundreds of people showed up to say they wouldn’t have it. They were inspired by the recent Occupy Wall Street protests, but, more importantly, they realized that they shouldn’t have to pay more, not even $300 more — and they’re right.
They shouldn’t have to pay more because CUNY is state funded, meaning New Yorkers already pay for it with their taxes. The amount of taxes the average New Yorker pays hasn’t dropped in line with the tuition hikes, so why has the funding for CUNY suddenly disappeared? True, New York State’s tax coffers have shrunken overall due to Wall Street’s economic slump, but that doesn’t mean that CUNY’s budget should be on the cutting block nor that the working class, who already sacrifice by paying a higher real tax rate, should be asked to sacrifice even more when simply trying to educate themselves — especially when millionaires in New York have just been given a huge break.
Students in particular should not be made to pay more. Kids didn’t cause the global financial crisis, they didn’t fuck up the state’s tax revenues, they didn’t create this stagnant unemployment, and they didn’t cripple the economic climate of the near future so as to make paying off student loans that much harder. These aren’t their crimes.
Ultimately, it’s a question of justice. Find the criminals; make them pay.
Originally published on Put That Shit on the List.