January 28, 2002

Cornellians Protest CUNY Tuition Hike

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Since November, the guarantee of accessible higher education at the City University of New York has become more tenuous for many undocumented immigrants, as tuition for them this spring rose by more than double.

But two Cornell students are joining the fight against CUNY’s tuition hikes, participating in a three-day hunger strike with nine others and at least 40 other protesters outside CUNY’s Board of Trustees’ Headquarters.

“They’re raising tuition for students who are already sacrificing a lot — family [and] personal time — to achieve something,” said Liliana Diaz Hidalgo ’05, one of the Cornell students who participated in last week’s hunger strike, along with classmate Daisy Torres ’05.

Out of a student body number close to 200,000, roughly 2,790 students have identified themselves as undocumented immigrants, many of whom have resided in the country for a long time but have no papers to prove that they are citizens.

Starting this Tuesday, when CUNY classes resume, all undocumented students will be forced to meet the out-of-state rate of $3,400, as opposed to the in-state rate of $1,600. She explained that many undocumented students work their way through college, and that the recent tuition hike will force them to leave school without a degree.

“Most simply can’t afford this,” said prof. Bill Crain, psychology, City College of New York. Crain, one of the organizers of last week’s three-day hunger strike against CUNY’s tuition increase.

“An $1,800 increase is far beyond their means,” Crain said.

Hidalgo agrees with CUNY professors’ concern that CUNY is “using the Sept. 11 attack as an excuse to finally let the minority community know that higher education isn’t for them.”

The hunger strike, which lasted from Jan. 15 to 17, was organized by Crain and Jerry Dominguez, a member of an organization called Casa M