A group of students, faculty and labor unions joined together this past Tuesday to protest against the “ruinous financial practices” of New York University (NYU), Cooper Union and The New School – three colleges located relatively close to one another. Each school is currently plagued by its own issue: NYU, an aggressive, controversial expansion; the New School, a fight by graduate students to unionize; at Cooper Union, an administrative decision to begin to charge tuition for the first time in the school’s history. However, at Tuesday’s protest, students and faculty members joined together to protest all three schools. The protesters claim that the schools are similar in that there is a pattern of fiscal schemes, namely bad investments, expensive construction projects, administrative bloat and weak financial aid, which are things that have ultimately indebted students and harmed the universities. A protester said that “NYU represents the cutting edge of everything that’s wrong in U.S. higher education…They don’t behave as a not-for-profit university should.” It is important to mention that NYU students notoriously have some of the worst levels of student debt in the country. It currently costs $47,750 to attend the prestigious university for the 2015-2016 academic year – and that’s not factoring in textbook costs, meal plans, or room and board. The core issue the protesters have with NYU is “NYU 2031,” a plan by the university to spend billions of dollars to develop two million square-feet of real estate for school use. The plan is currently opposed by many NYU faculty and neighborhood organizations, stating that it’s unnecessary and fiscally irresponsible in the face of NYU’s level of student debt. The university claims that it “must grow” in order to compete with Ivy League schools. Unlike the Ivy League schools, NYU is highly dependent on student tuition dollars rather than its endowment. That being said, an anonymous student at the protest revealed that she and many other students turned to prostitution to pay the exorbitantly high tuition rate. She stated that “student prostitution is an epidemic [at NYU].” It is critical to mention that NYU has an infamously stingy financial aid office. At Cooper Union, in 2013, they were forced to begin charging students tuition due to their financial situation. In response, students and faculty reacted in uproar and staged a week-long occupation of the university president’s office. In 2014, they filed a law suit to block tuition change. Graduate students from the New School have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board in order to reform a law that prevents graduate students from forming a union. The New School students currently pay the sixth-highest tuition in the country at a cool $42,000 a year.
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