This story has been updated.
PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Scores of Purchase College students walked out of their classes Friday during a noon demonstration urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to block a plan to extend state university tuition increases for another five years.
The increase- -- an element of Albany’s five-year SUNY 2020 plan dubbed “Rational Tuition” -- would boost tuition by as much as $300 a year. Cuomo and the state Legislature have until March 31 to decide whether to continue the plan.
Chanting “Freeze tuition now” and brandishing signs saying: “Enough is Enough!” and “Average Student Debt is $25,000”-- about 70 students unfurled and signed a banner in the college’s orange and blue colors with the slogan: “Purchase Stands Against Tuition Hikes.”
Student government leaders said they will travel to Albany to present the banner to the governor.
“We do not want any more increases,” said senior Megan Singer, chair of the Purchase Student Government Association Senate, shouting into a microphone. “We need to freeze our tuition.”
The 2020 plan has raised tuition by 30 percent since it was instituted in 2011. Incoming freshmen paid $6,470 last fall.
“Purchase is a low-cost school compared to other art schools and it should stay that way,” said Laura Fabien-Rojas, a sophomore attracted to the college because of its highly regarded art and music programs.
“A lot of us came here to follow our dreams," Fabien-Rojas said. "Are we gonna stand for this?”
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, whose $654,900 paycheck last year made her the second highest paid employee on the payroll, favors extending the plan. (The top paid employee is Reuven Pasternak, vice president of hospital affairs at Stony Brook University Hospital.)
Purchase College President Thomas Schwarz wrote a letter opposing the tuition plan extension. He did not attend the rally, but Student Government Association President Joseph Chiavaro read a letter from Schwarz in which he told students: “You should not bear the burden of declining state support. . . . I am proud that you are standing up for what you believe in.”
State Assemblyman David Buchwald, D-White Plains, whose 93rd District includes Purchase, issued a statement saying the rational tuition plan “isn't rational if our goal is to increase New Yorker's access to an affordable college education. The proposed tuition increases are well above the rate of inflation."
Ambar Lopez is a member of Purchase College’s Community Reporting Team.