City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (at lectern, above) and other elected officials announced the restoration of the CUNY Merit-Based Scholarship Program. Starting this fall, it will provide $800 scholarships a year to high school graduates who maintain a “B” average while attending any CUNY college.

The new city budget will provide $11.1 million to help about 13,000 first-year CUNY students with supplies, textbooks and other expenses.

Speaking at a press conference outside City Hall on July 8, Mark-Viverito, an alumna of Baruch College, praised the return of the scholarship program, which was eliminated in 2011 budget cuts.

“The CUNY Merit Scholarship represents our commitment today to our city’s tomorrow, by providing $11.1 million to reward graduates for their hard work and academic achievement and to connect them with the support and resources they need to succeed,” she said.

Previously, the CUNY student grant program was known as the Peter F. Vallone Academic Scholarship, named for the former City Council Speaker, who also is the father of current City Council Member Paul A. Vallone.

Joining the Speaker, Council Member Vallone and Council Member Inez Barron in pushing for the restoration of the scholarship this year were other City Council members, CUNY officials and members of the CUNY University Student Senate.

“The challenge is to be the very best you can be and get that ‘B’ average, and we will stand with you and give you the financial support,” the younger Vallone said.

CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor Jay Hershenson said: “The Mayor and the City Council have given a high priority to the support of college students and their families through this vitally important program. The investment they have made in CUNY students will be repaid many times over through taxes paid by the University’s graduates, especially since over 90 percent live or work in New York City. We commend our elected officials, working closely with the elected student government leaders, for their visionary efforts to promote greater access to higher education.”

Muhammad W. Arshad, chairperson of the University Student Senate and student representative on the CUNY Board of Trustees, expressed his gratitude to City Council members and acknowledged the work of CUNY students in restoring the scholarship.

“I would like to thank all the students who came out numerous times, testifying in front of the City Council and highlighting this issue,” Arshad said. “This is just a first step towards encouraging student leaders to get more involved in the City Council and with issues that face our communities today.”


Muhammad W. Arshad, chairperson of the University Student Senate and student representative to the CUNY Board of Trustees, also spoke at the press conference. Participating, from left, were Council Member Vincent Gentile, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Council Member and Higher Education Committee Chair Inez Barron and, at right, Council Member Paul Vallone.