BY Christian Hernandez & Laura Taveras
Fallout has heated up over a new fee for all CCNY engineering students. The so-called excellence fee requires all Grove undergrads to pay an additional $300 a year divided into two payments of $150 a semester. This new fee falls on engineering students’ shoulders, just as a yearly $300 a year tuition hike ended. In 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “rational tuition plan” instituted a $150 semester surcharge for all CUNY and SUNY students. The rational tuition plan’s increase ends as the new Grove School charges take hold.
An “emergency” meeting on May 12 created even more confusion and anger over the surcharge. That meeting came two days after a meeting at the School of Engineering on May 10. At the emergency meeting, Felix Lam, Vice-President for Finance, reviewed City College’s budgetary situation and its relationship to the dwindling enrollment among the academic divisions of the college— information that was already known by most in attendance.
Students who attended the faculty senate gathering, believed that voting for the approval of the fee would take place. But those in attendance were left perplexed about what was actually accomplished by the end of the meeting. It was scheduled to last three hours, but ended after an hour — and what the “emergency” was was never made clear.
A Grove School student who wished to remain unnamed, attended both the Tuesday meeting and the Thursday emergency meeting. “[It] was a bit surreal,” the student said. “An emergency meeting to discuss the budget is called: The deans are there, the president is there, and the outcome was that everyone walked away knowing just about nothing about the budget nor the fee.”
Anger began building over the new fee earlier this month. In a memo distributed to all engineering students, Ardie Walser, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Grove School, explained that the fee would help close CCNY’s $14 million budget gap. “It is estimated that the total income to the School will be $700,000 annually, an amount which effectively closes the gap in the school’s budget,” stated Walser.
Grove School students have mixed feelings on the matter. Mechanical engineering major Alex Wallach, agrees with the fee increase if it’s used for appropriate means, and with clear communication to students. “I think it should be enforced to ensure we have adequate funds for the coming semester under the condition that they will be transparent about how they’re using funds,” says Wallach.
Nichole Smirnoff, on the other hand, has very little faith in plan, and questions the timing of the administration. “If we had assurance that the money would go towards improving quality of life and education at school, I am all for it,” states Smirnoff. “However, it’s hard to trust the administration because things never end up the way they say or they take too long.”
Giovanni Sanchez, a chemical engineer, will not be impacted by the increase, but is fearful of what this means for the future of the engineering department. “In the short term it doesn’t affect me,” said Sanchez. “But I am scared that this might be a precursor for greater increments.”
Professor William Crain had a stronger view, against the fee. He pointed out that an excellence fee would undermine the historic mission of City College and deprive students of the right to an affordable education— a right made available to his parents when they attended City College.
Students have already raised over 400 petition signatures against the excellence fee. To weigh in, you can find the petition at: http://goo.gl/forms/mdF5Wdgt3k