The CUNY Value: A Debt Free Education for Most Graduates

July 1, 2013 | The University

Against a national backdrop of steadily rising college costs and soaring student-loan debt, The City University of New York offers the best value in U.S. higher education today – high-quality academics plus a “safety net” of remarkably affordable tuition, tax credits and financial aid that make CUNY students much less likely to borrow for their education, according to a new report.

Nearly six out of 10 full-time undergraduates attend CUNY colleges tuition-free due to full coverage by need-based federal Pell Grants and New York State TAP awards. More than $1 billion in financial aid – including government grants, CUNY aid and scholarships – benefits CUNY students for the 2012-13 academic year. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, a rebate of up to $2,500 that can defray education expenses for many middle-class families, is available to further reduce the cost of CUNY tuition, which is among the lowest in the land compared with public and private institutions.

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New data compiled by CUNY, The College Board and other sources underscore CUNY’s value in the higher-education marketplace. CUNY’s tuition and fees, averaging $5,818 at its four-year colleges in fall 2012, contrasts sharply with the $29,056 national average for private, non-profit four-year colleges and universities, the $15,172 average at for-profit institutions, and the $8,655 average tuition and fees at public, four-year institutions, according to The College Board.

Wide availability of federal and state financial aid keeps it affordable – with full or partial tuition coverage –for the low-income students who comprise a significant percentage of CUNY’s student enrollment. In 2012-13, nearly 241,000 CUNY students will receive $810 million in federal and state education aid. Scholarships are also available: Since 2000, the University’s Invest in CUNY campaign has raised more than $700 million from private donors to fund scholarships throughout CUNY’s 24 institutions based on merit, need, specialized interests and other factors.

CUNY students save more by borrowing less for their education. In 2010, only 15 percent of CUNY undergraduates held federal education loans, compared with much higher borrowing rates at other public institutions, private colleges and for- profit schools, according to data compiled by the University.

CUNY’s commitment to both excellence and opportunity has fueled the record enrollments of the past decade, including a surge in high achieving students that continues this fall. SAT scores are up among incoming CUNY freshmen, and more students are graduating than ever before. CUNY students have continued to garner an impressive array of prestigious national honors, from Rhodes Scholarships to National Science Foundation Awards.

The University continues to strengthen and expand its academic programs, attracting motivated achievers with high-level offerings such as The Macaulay Honors College and the Chancellor’s Decade of Science initiative, under which numerous CUNY researchers have mentored students who have gone on to win NSF awards. The University is also hiring hundreds of new full-time faculty, to maintain the high academic quality that remains CUNY’s primary focus, and is modernizing campuses throughout the five boroughs.

Further details of The CUNY Value are available at cuny.edu/value.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University is comprised of 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. The University serves more than 269,000 degree credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.