CUNY Grad Students Penalized for Not Moving to NY During Pandemic

Some graduate students in their 2nd year of study at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY) are being charged out-of-state tuition rates because, owing to the pandemic pushing courses online last year, they had not yet established residency in New York.

A graduate student in philosophy at CUNY explains:

Domestic second-year students at our institution are being financially penalized for following the instructions of the CDC, New York state, and public health experts to refrain from travel during the pandemic. PhD tuition scholarships at the GC generally cover out-of-state tuition for the first year of instruction; because students are expected to establish NY residency during their first year, tuition scholarships only cover in-state tuition for years 2-5. During the 2020-21 academic year, however, due to the pandemic, instruction was fully online. New York was a virus hotspot and non-essential travel was highly discouraged. Administrators and faculty at CUNY assured first-year students like myself that we would not need to move to New York and that the potential out-of-state tuition issue would be resolved promptly.

As of last week, the start of the fall semester, CUNY withheld part of affected second-year students’ fellowship stipends to cover the difference between in- and out-of-state tuition. PhD students who do not receive fellowship stipends (and only receive tuition scholarships) are being expected to pay for this difference out of pocket. Depending on how many credits a student is taking this semester, this difference ranges from around $2500-4000. We’re estimating that 60-70 GC PhD students are affected by this policy. By far, the majority of the students actively organizing to ensure that CUNY resolves this issue (and returns the withheld funds) are from communities underrepresented in academia, including women and people of color.

Other public university systems have seemed to be able to remedy analogous situations in their states:

Yesterday, Inside Higher Ed published an article about this issue. The article confirms that the University of California (UC) system has preemptively solved this out-of-state issue of their students. The UC solution sounds relatively simple: temporarily amend residency guidelines to allow students entering during the 2020-21 AY to use remote instruction to stand in for physical presence.

People at other schools can help:

We’re hoping you can provide this information to your readership and encourage them to share what’s going on. Philosophy faculty at the GC have been supportive of affected students in our department, using their position to pressure our university’s administration. Philosophy faculty and students at other institutions can support us by spreading the news (and, if they feel so moved, by tagging GC president Robin Garrell (@PresGarrell) and CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez (@ChancellorCUNY) when sharing via Twitter.)

Further details at IHE.

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UC Student
2 years ago

If UC wants to feel good about itself maybe they should extend the non-resident tuition fee exemption for the international students impacted by the pandemic at all campuses. I’ll glad my domestic colleagues are being protected but the story doesn’t end there.

2 years ago

I don’t know much about standard US tuition policies, but what’s the rationale behind charging students (more) when they’re living elsewhere? If it’s to force them to move close to campus then it seems like a heavy-handed tactic to me.

Daniel Weltman
Reply to  Anco
2 years ago

State universities are funded by state governments and paid for by the state taxes, with the goal of providing an education to state residents for their benefit and the benefit of everyone else in the state. So the thought is that the tuition should be relatively low for state residents, both because they’ve paid for it via taxes already and because the state wants to provide them an affordable education, and normal (i.e. exorbitant) for non-residents, who have not funded the university and whom the state has no special interest in educating. Private universities meanwhile charge normal (i.e. exorbitant) fees to everyone.

The rationale is not about forcing people to move close to campus, so at the very least it avoids that criticism!

Jorge Regula
Jorge Regula
2 years ago

This is an absolute disgrace!