JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens — When Enrique Peña came to the United States five years ago from his native Peru, his goal was set early on.
“Go to a good school and get an education that’s what my parents always wanted for me,” he told PIX11 News. “That’s why I came.”
Peña — who is a Dreamer under the DACA program — would eventually land at The City University of New York where he’s now a triple major in political science, urban studies and Latin American studies.
But the 23-year-old like many CUNY students, is now finding it hard to stay afloat with rising tuition costs.
Peña is part of a student body where more than 60% of those enrolled make less than $30,000 a year and more than half must maintain a full time or part time job to make ends meet.
“I had one close friend who had to stop going to college because of tuition hikes and that personally hurts,” Peña said.
In an effort to alleviate the struggle, Shekar Krishnan — a candidate for New York City Council — is proposing a five point plan which includes making sure private universities pay their fair share in taxes and the state reinvests in its community colleges.
Those funds, Shekar says, would allow CUNY to return to a free tuition model which was the case from its inception in 1847 until 1976.
“It’s the students and families who have done so much for our city – this is really a way for CUNY and for the city to make sure that we are supporting them in the way that they drive this city forward,” Krishnan told PIX11 News.
The movement to lower tuition at CUNY has gained momentum since the start of the pandemic including legislation introduced in the state senate in February aimed at reviving CUNY.
With several students dropping out last year due to losing their main source of income, and a growing appetite for progressive leaders to return results — students like Peña are optimistic
“You would believe progressive leaders in the supposedly progressive New York State would support this, right?,” he said.