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Mayor de Blasio, Chancellors Fariña and Milliken Announce Elimination of CUNY Application Fee For Low-Income NYC Students

September 26, 2016

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Elimination of fee will remove barrier to college application and enrollment 

Estimated 37,500 families able to save $65 application fee 

Fee Elimination part of College Access for All, one of Mayor de Blasio’s Equity and Excellence initiatives

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Fariña, and CUNY Chancellor Milliken announced today that the CUNY application fee will be eliminated for all low-income NYC public high school seniors starting this fall. The expansion increases the number of CUNY fee waivers more than fivefold – under the expansion, an estimated 37,500 high school seniors will qualify for fee waivers, up from approximately 6,500 waivers issued annually in previous years.

The elimination of the fee for low-income students removes a significant financial barrier to students applying to college and is part of the College Access for All initiative, one of the Mayor’s Equity and Excellence reforms. The initiative builds on a high school graduation rate over 70 percent for the first time, and the highest-ever postsecondary enrollment rate and college readiness rate.

The CUNY application fee waiver allows a student to complete and submit an application listing up to six CUNY schools free of charge. Currently, over half of college-bound graduates of NYC public high schools enroll in CUNY colleges.

“We need to give all our children – no matter the neighborhood they live in, or background they come from – the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century, and that means removing barriers to applying, enrolling, and succeeding in college. Eliminating the application fee for low-income seniors will have a profound impact for thousands of students and their families” said Mayor de Blasio.

“As the first person in my family to attend college, I understand the barriers that stand between students and college, and we must break down those barriers to deliver equity and excellence for all students,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Today’s announcement will make a real difference for thousands of students and families across all five boroughs, and we are going to keep breaking down barriers through College Access for All and our Equity and Excellence initiatives.”  

“CUNY is proud to partner with Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Department of Education's College Access for All initiative to expand waivers for the University’s $65 application fee from 6,500 to 37,500 high school seniors. Nearly 60 percent of New York City’s college-bound public school students enroll in CUNY and the application fee allows a student to apply to up to six CUNY schools,” said CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken. “This dramatic increase in fee waivers eliminates a hurdle for thousands of low-income students seeking higher education and is consistent with CUNY’s historic mission to increase access to quality higher education.”

“Every year, young people across the City who are inspired and prepared to go to college don’t enroll or even apply. One reason is financially burdensome college application fees. No student with the talent and capability to go to college should be shut out at the very step of that process due to their family’s income. The CUNY fee waiver policy is about going an extra step to ensure all students have access to high-quality, affordable education right here in New York City,” said Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor of Strategic Policy Initiatives.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “For many students the costs associated with preparing for and applying to college can be very discouraging and burdensome. By eliminating application fees for CUNY schools for our most vulnerable youth, we can assure that every student has the opportunity to obtain higher education and secure a brighter future. I would like to thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to eliminating obstacles to high education for thousands of students in New York. ”

This initiative costs $2.4 million total annually, with this administration adding $2 million for the expansion and CUNY continuing to fund around 6,500 waivers for approximately $400,000.

Application fee waiver codes are being made available to DOE school administrators and counselors, who will provide them to eligible students. School administrators and counselors are already responsible for disbursing a number of application and test fee waivers to students; they will also receive additional specific guidance to ensure students and families are aware of the expanded CUNY fee waiver and able to utilize it.

In addition to providing waivers to students eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program, schools will be instructed to provide waivers to students living in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home, or who are homeless; and students whose families receive public assistance. Undocumented students who fit the above criteria are eligible for the waiver, as well.

College Access for All is one of the initiatives in Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda, and will ensure that, by the 2018-19 school year, every student will have the resources and support at their high school to graduate with an individual college and career plan. In addition to the expansion of the CUNY application fee waiver, College Access for All also includes the SAT School Day, through which all 68,000 New York City high school juniors will be able to take the SAT free of charge during the school day on April 5, 2017. The initiative is also supporting new training and funding at 100 high schools this year to build a schoolwide college and career culture.

“Through College Access for All, we are working tirelessly to ensure that every single student can graduate with a world of college and career choices ahead of them. Increasing fee waivers means increasing access and opportunities for our students, by addressing financial barriers that make it more difficult for them to apply to CUNY. This is another crucial step towards equity and excellence for all students,” said Phil Weinberg, Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning.

“As teachers, we know how hard our students work to go to college, and how too many get sidelined by financial obstacles. We applaud Mayor de Blasio’s and CUNY’s on-going commitment to breakdown these barriers to help more students realize their dreams,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of The United Federation of Teachers.

"The members of the PSC join me in congratulating Mayor de Blasio on this creative and necessary initiative. Education - including college education - should be a right, not a privilege.  Anything that removes initial barriers to access is a gain for all New Yorkers. Some of my own best students have come to CUNY from lives of extreme poverty and dislocation; the University will be richer for the presence of students whose initial access will be smoothed by the application fee waiver.  And all New Yorkers gain when more New Yorkers have access to CUNY,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen.

“I applaud the de Blasio administration and the CUNY system for advancing an expanded application fee waiver for our city’s low-income public high school seniors. College access to all is a critically-important goal in the greater mission of eliminating inequality that has historically dictated which communities have the ability to produce successful young men and women. I am a proud graduate of CUNY schools – twice over, in fact – and I believe every student who enters the hallowed halls of these institutions has the capability to achieve beyond their preconceived potential. My administration is working hard in Brooklyn to create educational pipelines to prosperity for our youth that directly engage colleges such as Brooklyn College, City Tech, Medgar Evers, and Kingsborough. This initiative by the City will open the doors of opportunity to thousands of more young New Yorkers seeking to benefit from these pipelines and to maximize their educational experiences," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

"These waivers will eliminate an unnecessary barrier many high school students face while applying to college," said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm.  "Many New Yorkers are barely scraping by.  Application fees are a heavy burden for low-income students and families struggling to pay rent, food and utility bills.  I applaud the decision to exempt qualifying students from such unnecessary and onerous fees.  I will to continue to work with the administration to make higher education more accessible to all NYC youth."

"No student should be shut out of a college education because of a lack of ability to pay. With this fee waiver, we are opening the door to a college education for nearly 40,000 families - an achievement the entire city should be proud of. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio and Chancellors Farina and Milliken for their commitment to making college accessible to all of our city's students," said Council Member David Greenfield.

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