Could CUNY Be Tuition Free?


Alexandra Cortese

(October 2022) A poster urging sign up for a protest, in advocation of The New Deal. The protest is primarily organized by John Jay College of Criminal Justices’ DSA committee, being held on Sunday November 13th, 2022

The rising cost of higher education has spurred an ongoing political debate in New York, with free tuition potentially becoming a reality for CUNY students by 2023. 

CUNY institutions were previously free of cost until 1976 when New York City experienced financial setbacks. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many college students in New York City have struggled to obtain scholarships/financial aid and employment.

As the nation recovers from this hardship, college students are often left deciding between attending class or attending work. 

“I work 40 hours plus hours and adding my school schedule to that can be stressful,” said Angel Fogah, a junior at John Jay. 

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and legislators are fighting to close the TAP gap, the difference between rewards from the state and the full cost of tuition, and pass the New Deal for CUNY. 

The New Deal aims to eliminate tuition for all CUNY students, hire approximately 5,000 new faculty members in every institution, and restore the university’s facilities city-wide.

“It offers opportunities to people who couldn’t afford tuition and thought it was impossible,” said Jasmen Lawton, a senior at John Jay. “Now people can continue their education and others can even enroll.”

The Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY) plans to begin the process by re-distributing food-insecurity resources and reinstating childcare programs within CUNY.

New York State lawmakers, proponents of the New Deal, believe this legislation is vital to make higher education accessible within NYC and further advance our workforce and communal decision-making efforts. 

“We have tremendous momentum in the state legislature to get this bill to the five-yard line,” said Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-NY) at a rally in March. 

The New Deal also aims for generational equity and advocacy for first-generation college students, being that 45% of CUNY students are the first in their families to receive higher education. Also, the legislation aims to eliminate any financial-induced fear (i.e. paying off loans, receiving scholarships, etc.) that may be deterring students from enrolling in CUNY. 

Some opponents of the New Deal question eliminating CUNY tuition. 

“A high school diploma used to get you many jobs in the mid-1980s that today you need a bachelor’s degree for,” said Samantha Iervolino, a College of Staten Island Alumni. “Would free college mean that many occupations that formerly required a bachelor’s degree would now require a master’s?” 

Many people fear that providing free tuition, which would make college vastly accessible to all New York City residents, could diminish the value of a bachelor’s degree.

Despite this sentiment among New Yorkers, On March 10, the New York City Council passed a resolution urging the state legislature to include The New Deal in the fiscal budget for 2023.

“As a full-time student and now a mother, I would be able to save a lot of money if CUNY was free,” said Fogah. “One less stressful bill to worry about.”

 About the Writer:


Alexandra Cortese, is a freshman majoring in Law and Society and English Literature Upon graduating from John Jay, she plans to attend law school in New York City and follow in either a federal prosecution or divorce law specialty. She has had a passion to become an attorney for over five years. Recently, she completed her first legal internship. Cortese believes John Jay has many creative outlets including The John Jay Sentinel that allow her to carry out her enjoyments, such as reading and writing. Her favorite book of all time is “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy because of its main message, resilience which applies heavily in both her personal and school life. Cortese can’t wait to see what these next four years have in store, and she is especially looking forward to her time on The Sentinel!