NEW PALTZ – Members of the student organization New York Students Rising at SUNY New Paltz held a “walk-out” Thursday at noon, to protest the issue of student debt, the collective balance of which has been growing rapidly recently.
The demonstration at SUNY New Paltz was repeated at campuses across the country
Students rallied outside in the SUNY New Paltz Quad, enduring poor weather
conditions, to make a series of demands to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Protesting
students demanded of an effigy of the governor that the state freeze SUNY
tuition costs, include more of a state investment into the SUNY system
and an end to SUNY’s “Rational Tuition” policy which
increases student tuition by $300 annually.
Brandon Missig, an organizer and SUNY New Paltz student, said the organization fears a disproportional reliance on student tuition for SUNY funding is creating a model reminiscent of the ones employed by private institutions.
“About just over a decade ago, state funds would cover 60 percent of the operating costs of the SUNY system and right now, student tuition covers 60 percent of the operating costs of SUNY schools which isn’t fair, that’s not the public education system, that is a private school model right there,” said Missig. “So, we want that to be reversed. We want, at least, back to the levels of the 90s where the state tax payer support was covering 60 percent of the operating cost of each school.”
To demonstrate to the governor the seriousness of the issue, protesting students filled out checks in the amount of their student debt and addressed them to his office. Missig said the 90 checks they provided, all of which were filled out by students and presented to the effigy of Cuomo, will be put in an envelope and sent to the governor’s office as a form of petition.
Jordan Taylor, a SUNY New Paltz alumnus and former vice president of student affairs and governance for the SUNY New Paltz Student Association, said that he has personally felt the impact of student debt.
“I graduated six months ago, so now, I’ve got to start paying the loans back and if I can’t really pay them back now, then they just kind of start stacking up on interest and now I’m caught in this whole web; it’s like I’ve got chains on me,” said Taylor. “Debt is the currency of slaves and really, what we have here, is just trying to keep down the youth from being active and pushing for the change and education is a right, it shouldn’t just be for upper class, or rich people who can afford it, it should just be given to everybody; we’d have a better world that way.”
Nicole Stiffolino, the current vice president of academic affairs and governance for the SUNY New Paltz Student Association and fellow New York Student Rising organizer, said she had a message for Governor Cuomo.
“Do not renew the Rational Tuition Plan, get state funding and start investing in SUNY because by investing in SUNY, you’re investing in the students and you’re making education accessible to all because right now, you’re making higher education very, very hard to obtain,” Stiffolino said.
Students who did not get to fill out a debt check to the governor, but want to, can visit the NYSR Facebook page to fill one out, or, they can visit NYSR in person at the SUNY New Paltz campus to give one to them directly which will be sent with the others up to Albany.