BAY RIDGE – Ross Barkan, a graduate of Stony Brook University who is running for New York State Senate seat representing District 22, has released his education platform, promising to fight for free tuition, “no strings attached”, for New York state residents attending City University of New York (CUNY) or State University of New York (SUNY) schools. He also insists that the schools be fully funded – both teaching staff and capital expenditures – and proposes that one way to do that may be to legalize and tax marijuana.
“We must restore true tuition-free education, end unnecessary price-gouging, and pay our faculty what they deserve. New York succeeded when higher education was an actual priority. We can lead the country and the world—all we have to do is invest in education,” Barkan says.
While CUNY has seen its popularity surge, with 40% more undergraduate students enrolling than in 2000, funding per student has dropped almost 20%, and facilities have seen half a century of deferred maintenance. Take a look at this Facebook account that documents and advocates for fixing of the facilities at Brooklyn College – broken bathrooms, missing tiles, holes in ceilings, bedbugs …
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Barkan has put getting resources CUNY and SUNY need high on his agenda. The Excelsior Scholarship, the program that currently offers free tuition to qualifying students, did not help typical students attending these colleges, NY Times wrote last year. Most students did not benefit because of the class load and graduation requirements the program insisted on, and the program did not cover room and board, leaving graduates with significant expenses. “No student should be forced to choose between getting a job to help out their family and pursuing a college education”, Barkan believes, and that should apply to DREAMers as well – a proposal that has been blocked by Republicans in the state senate.
He also thinks “there should be no strings attached—if a student graduates and lands a job beyond the borders of New York, a scholarship should not be transformed into debt.”
Fully funding CUNY and SUNY also includes paying above poverty wages for its teaching staff. The number of adjuncts at the colleges has almost doubled since 2000 to just under 15,000 in 2015. Currently adjuncts with full time class loads make about $25,000 a year making them some of the poorest New Yorkers. “Overworked, underpaid adjuncts cannot bear the brunt of this status quo any longer, ” Barkan insists.
So how will he get this done if elected?
“We will do this by increasing state funding for education and creating a more progressive tax structure—closing the carried interest loophole and introducing a new millionaire’s tax, for example”, Barkan says.
“We will be able to raise new revenue for education if we legalize and tax marijuana statewide. SUNY must also cease wasteful spending on initiatives that have nothing to do with academics. We do not need new football stadiums, opulent gymnasiums, and overpaid athletic coaches at our SUNY’s. We need educational opportunities.”