As many Latinos can relate, the value of an education is held on very high regard within our families. Part of the reason why our families come to this country is to provide their children a fair opportunity to an education. My dad would tell my brother and I, “A uno le pueden quitar todo, pero la educacion, nadie pueden robarles.” However, is an opportunity to an education in this country simply becoming an illusion to many Latinos?
The City University of New York’s Board of Trustees (CUNY) voted to increase tuition by $300 each year through 2015. Two years ago, CUNY raised tuition by 14%, last Spring it increased by 6.2% and this past semester by 5%. These increases claim to be the results of the New York State’s Legislature’s decision to cut funding for CUNY & SUNY (The State University of New York). While the CUNY system remains to provide a prevalently low cost tuition compared to other public university systems nationwide it does not diminish the negative impact to the Latino community.
CUNY historically and currently represents society’s diversity. It was founded as an opportunity for individuals who could not or were not allowed to attain a higher education in New York. Founded in the early 20th Century, it provided a high quality and tuition-free education to the poor, working class, women and immigrants of New York.The occupation of City College by Puerto Rican and African-American students in the late seventies perpetuated an open admissions system, as well as remedial courses providing students from difficult socio-economic backgrounds additional preparation in order to enter CUNY’s system.
Where according to the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment released in April 2011,the total enrollment of Latino Undergraduate is 24%; Community College Enrollment is 36.6% and Graduate Latino Enrollment is 14.1%. Today, CUNY continues to provide a similar opportunity for many of New York City’s diverse population, including the Latino community. It serves as an affordable resource where many of us can reach some of the dreams our families yearned for as they migrated to this country. However, this dream seems to be coming to a close as cost of tuition rises.As a former undergraduate and graduate student of CUNY’s system, I look back to the struggles my parents and I went through. Overtime, two jobs while taking four courses; or Full-Time job while taking graduate courses formed a long and difficult road. Luckily, I reached my goal.
This road just came to an end two years ago for me. If it wasn’t for my family, myself, aid, loans and scholarships I would not have attained my degrees. Furthermore, as tuition rapidly increases, how would I have been able to keep up if I was still a student?As a student, I saw many of my academic classmates, many whom were Latinos drop out. Affordability was a considerable factor in their decision, not lack of desire to attain a degree. This increase will only result in an even more diminishing rate of enrollment. I will quote Colombiano, academic activist and lawyer Jose Luis Cordoba – “Por la ignorancia se deciende a la servidumbre, por la educación se asciende la libertad” (“Through ignorance one descends towards servitude, through education one ascends towards freedom”).
CUNY will be going against everything it was founded for — an equal opportunity to higher education for individuals who, socio-economically seem to stand as second-class citizens in our society.
CUNY is heavily made up of low-income and minority students, like Cinthya Simistetta and Julian Jimenez.
“I support myself, work full-time and take part-time classes. I am now forced to consider the possibility of two jobs in order to attain an education. One job barely let’s me get by on my daily cost of living (bills, food, rent),” expressed Simistetta. “It’s unfair that my opportunity at attaining an education, which I believe should be a human right, is facing another maybe impossible obstacle.”
The day after the Board of Trustees approved the CUNY Tuition Hikes, Simistetta received a letter informing her of these rises in tuition. In the same letter they affirmed that Hunter College remains one of the most affordable CUNY schools. While Hunter confirms these ongoing hikes have served the College positively, she has yet to see the positive investment.
Their investments such as providing healthy (and very expensive) food and modernized cafeteria is not what she considers as a positive investment.
“While many day students utilize this service, evening students do not. And bathrooms still do not work,” said Simistetta, who is the first person in her family to attempt to attain a Higher Education.
Julian Jimenez, an Engineering student from Borough of Manhattan Community College, is not feeling that there will be a positive change in the school with the Tuition Hikes.
“My school is part of the CUNY system; therefore, the hikes have to affect my school one-way or another. Yet they do not have the funds to hire more professors to teach classes needed by students. Which in turn makes students spend more time in school in order to graduate. And I ask myself: How is that positive?” said Julian. “The fact that they are going to keep raising tuition, is leading me to go somewhere else.”
By: Sarbelia Benedict: Contributor, Freelance Writer/Columnist