Earlier today the New York City Council finalized the City’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2016. We thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Higher Education Committee Chair Inez Barron, City Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and all of the members of the Council for restoring the City Council Merit Scholarship and allocating $17 million to the program.
Last year, after persistent advocacy efforts from USS and the students of CUNY, the New York City Council reestablished the previously defunct NYC Council Merit Scholarship, allocating $11.1 million for the 2014-15 academic year. The scholarship provided over 11,000 first-time freshmen students at the City University of New York (CUNY) with an $800 award ($400 per semester) that helped the student scholars defray the cost associated with earning a college education.
The academic ladder remains an important component in attaining personal and professional success. More and more jobs require a college degree and higher education remains the chief driver of economic growth. The City Council Merit Scholarship Program will continue to make college more affordable and expand educational opportunities to thousands of hard working, intelligent, and talented CUNY students—many who live and will remain living and working in New York City upon graduation.
We are also grateful for the investment the FY2016 budget makes to other vital programs within CUNY, including the CUNY Accelerated Studies in Associates Program (ASAP), the CUNY Citizenship Now, increased capital funds, and the CUNY Linking Employment, Academics Disability Services (LEADS) program.
CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken’s leadership and advocacy in this regard is laudable. Chancellor Milliken has been exceedingly supportive of the CUNY student leadership. Accordingly, the student organizations that played a role in bringing awareness to the importance of the Merit Scholarship should be recognized as well—the delegates of the University Student Senate, the CUNY Student Government and Organization Leaders, and the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD).
The Mayor, City Council, and CUNY community have made it clear that allocating funding to high achieving students is a priority.