However, the rally was not just made up of SUNY New Paltz professors and students. Sen. Jen Metzger, Statewide UUP President Frederick Kowal, SUNY Delhi UUP President Kelly Keck also made their voices heard before the hearing.
Those participating in the rally wore red in solidarity for the other national protests among educators, however, the UUP rally was specifically focused on SUNY and CUNY funding and urged those who attended the rally to also show up to the hearing and to “testify with their presence.”
Professors vocalized their struggle to deal with the continually decreasing budget for SUNY schools while being expected to teach multiple classes a semester, handle over 50 advisees in addition to not being paid enough to handle their own student loans from when they went to college.
Poor funding not only impacts the SUNY and CUNY professors, but it impacts the students as well.
“Fifty-eight percent of students at both public and private colleges graduate with some level of debt, and we have an urgent need here in New York to address the affordability crisis facing current and future college students,” Metzger said in a press release. “Every young person in New York deserves access to higher education without being forced to take on unsustainable student debt.”
Currently, New York State funds about 33% of SUNY’s operating budget while student tuition and fees account for 67% of the budget. About 10 years ago, students only accounted for 25% of the SUNY budget. According to UUP, the SUNY system has lost more than $1 billion in state funding since the Great Recession
In-state tuition at SUNY New Paltz excluding room and board comes out to be $8,254 for one year.
During her speech, Schwerd talked about how students commonly struggle to pay for their textbooks, tuition and food. She even mentioned how some of her friends had to drop out of college because they could not afford the expenses.
Third-year political science major Jana Bergere said that out of all her older siblings, her tuition is the highest and it continues to increase.
“I want to go to [graduate] school, but tuition is so high it seems almost impossible,” Bergere said.
“SUNY should be an opportunity for all New Yorkers to get a higher education regardless of their economic circumstances,” said undecided first-year Alice Rojas. “It’s one of the core building blocks of upward mobility and I think it’s something both the state and national government have a responsibility to fund adequately.”