BROOKLYN — By the time New York City's low-income high school students reach their senior year, they've already overcome many hurdles in their bid to get into college: staying in school, remaining focused and getting good grades.
Now the city is looking to remove one barrier to smooth their college admissions process: waiving the $65 application fee to all City University of New York programs for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, among other eligibility requirements.
The move is expected to help an estimated 37,000 students a year, up from the 6,500 students who are currently eligible for CUNY application fee waivers.
“With ‘College Access to All,’ there’s a sense that everything you’re doing is leading up to going to college,” Bill de Blasio announced Monday. “We knew that something as narrow as the application fee was standing in the way.”
The city is putting $2 million towards the initiative as part of de Blasio’s “Equity and Excellence” agenda, while CUNY is paying the rest.
For some families, living paycheck-to-paycheck — or without any paycheck at all — $65 is an insurmountable fee amid the myriad “tough choices” they have to make, barely able to pay for things like rent or medications, de Blasio explained.
More than half of New York City public school students attend CUNY for their higher education, officials said.
CUNY provost Vita Rabinowitz explained that removing the fee can make the daunting application process a little easier.
“It’s a pivotal moment. It’s a fraught moment,” she said of the application. “It’s a make or break moment for a student [who might ask] ‘Can I do this? Is it worth it?’ This can potentially change the trajectory of whole families.”
At Brownsville’s Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a small transfer school for under-credited and overage students, run by the JCCA in partnership with the Department of Education, the school has long been trying to help its graduating seniors figure out ways to cover application fees.
Recognizing that many of its students could not afford the application fee, the school last year, for instance, launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs, reaching its $10,000 goal.
“Many of our students do go to CUNY schools and we applaud the mayor’s announcement to waive CUNY’s application fees for NYC students,” said Cherise Littlejohn, program director of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy.
"While it may seem like a small amount to some, it is a huge amount for students struggling to make ends meet.”