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Cleopatra Fitzgerald

New Yorker Cleopatra Fitzgerald is among several mayoral candidates who responded to The Envoy’s survey on CUNY policy. The following are Fitzgerald’s raw answers to the survey. To read the article summarizing and explaining the mayoral candidates’ survey responses, click here.

1. What role do you believe the city and state should play in funding community colleges? Should such colleges be tuition-free?

Many students who cannot afford college are denied the opportunities an education offers and those whom are struggling to pay back student loans are making an effort to remain debt-free. 

However, it is said that CUNY appeals to students (I have gone to two CUNY colleges and graduated from one) since they put forward a variation of courses to choose from, there is cultural diversity, and the tuition gives many students the chance to graduate debt-free. There was a study conducted by “Student Loan Report” stating that “Three CUNY colleges ranked in top 10 of low debt schools in the US…” 

Nonetheless, students coming from a low-income background, homelessness, single mothers,etc can be most negatively affected and grades as well as graduation rates could suffer because still students have to pay for their own textbooks,school supplies, school lunch,transportation,room,childcare,etc. 

Therefore, that is why a great deal of students opt for part time studies considering that the costs of attending full time will not accommodate their living expenses. 17 states in the US are said to offer tuition free schools and several other countries offer reduced or free schools but with exceptions. 

CUNY’S budget is mainly managed by the state but both state and city bear the costs to keep the college operable. Moreover, it is noted that community colleges are less funded than full year CUNY colleges -thus, creating gaps of inequality. In order for there to be free tuition for colleges, the state and federal must work together. It has been told that if colleges were free -more graduation rates rise, less debts,less loans,more employment opportunities for the graduates who can finish on time their degrees. Others argue that taxpayers will pay the costs and property taxes will increase. Some questions that are asked are what will happen to private schools,vocational schools, and if free-tuition schools will principally benefit the higher income students. The dilemma is that the city is still paying for costs and people say the state should do so. The decision comes in a difficult time both healthwise and economically. Every detail should be analyzed and the views of students,teachers,staff,families,CUNY members, schools,lawyers,economists,and more taken into account. The concept of more tuition-free schools is attainable and ideal for students but it depends what is being adversely  risked in exchange for it. 

2. What role do you believe the state should play in funding senior colleges? Should such colleges be tuition-free?

Most US states provide tuition free colleges for seniors . There are also financial assistance and discounted classes,audit courses,grants,scholarships,online courses. Even though tuition might be free, state colleges and universities can still ask students to pay for activity fees and other personal,school expenses. The controversy lies on private colleges, bills,laws,CUNY,SUNY, and the economic,COVID19 situation. 

The idea is advantageous to seniors, retirees who are eager to return or begin school and earn a higher salary, learn new topics, meet up with peers,or a combination of these or more. It is exemplar if everyone had free access to the education they set their dreams and hopes to. Nonetheless, the state is managing the fiscal decisions of SUNY and persons complain that the state is being differential to CUNY in budgeting. As I mentioned in question #1: “The dilemma is that the city is still paying for costs and people say the state should do so. The decision comes in a difficult time both healthwise and economically. Every detail should be analyzed and the views of students,teachers,staff,families,CUNY members, schools,lawyers,economists,and more taken in account. The concept of more tuition-free schools is attainable and ideal for students but it depends what is being adversely risked in exchange for it.”

3. How would you expand job opportunities for CUNY students and graduates?

CUNY enables internships,apprenticeship programs, several job opportunities even in the colleges themselves. Students majoring in a course of study should be able to find jobs within their preferred sector. I believe there should be a type of incentive where each job sector can agree to a percentage of students and graduates who either want to learn a profession or be hired. The job sector should welcome the student or graduate and assess if the person falls within that job sector or other branches. They can refer the student/graduate to similar sectors or other locations. There are jobs that require no experience, and are high paying. The student/graduate has to do research on the vast options. Marketing firms, advertising,recruiters can pair up with students/graduates and support them in the process. Companies can visit the colleges asking for students to join. With proactive unison it will pave the way for a satisfied environment and workforce. CUNY colleges can create a database of places where CUNY students/graduates are frequently accepted. A systematic database that is easy to use and where students/graduates get updates/notifications of their job or internships acceptances and recommendations.

4. Would you expand mental health and wellness funding and services for CUNY students? If so, how?

This is a controversial issue because there are countless false mental health diagnostics and students should not be forced into accepting a fake result by a psychiatrist or school counselors. Healthcare should be optional and fair. A holistic approach where pills are not necessary could help students ease their troubles without having to waste time and money on misguided methods. There are lots of counseling services at CUNY and investigations could check the misdiagnosis or overdiagnosis of these places. It is said that millions annually are being misdiagnosed and lawsuits have shown it. It is true that there are persons who need help according to their verific problems but the sane should not be made insane purposely.

5. How would you support CUNY students experiencing food and/or housing insecurity?

CUNY students with food issues can get vouchers,discounts, emergency loans,food pantries,social services,etc. NYC and the state should fund to a greater extent these proposals. SNAP requirements need reform so those in need can become eligible. Students without proper nutrition can have failing grades, deteriorating health, and higher drop-out rates. Food insecurity affects a lot of immigrant students,homeless students, low income, students who have children.  CUNY can partner with farmer’s markets,restaurants, food industries that have an over surplus or support the cause. CUNY can call for help by creating a local,global awareness on the necessity of student hunger issues.

6. How would you decide who to appoint to the CUNY board of trustees?

There was an article at the Hunter Envoy that discussed how the board of trustees are for the most part selected by the Mayor and Governor and how those trustees are at odds with the choices of students and teachers. Protestors have striked against the policies of the trustees such as budget cuts, low salary of adjuncts. However, in 2016 William C. Thompson, Jr., Chairperson of the CUNY Board of Trustees and who once served as 42nd NYC Comptroller conducted an investigation into CUNY that did help point out the irregularities or challenges at CUNY. The Board of Trustees should additionally be voted for by CUNY students in student elections and the voices of students and teachers regarding trustees listened to. I would appoint a trustee not solely based on a professional background or status but on the way he/she would organize and achieve harmony with the will of the CUNY community. The trustee should be responsible, non-corrupt and be attuned to the interests of education and correct handling of the day to day matters brought forward. The trustee should be trustworthy and capable of gaining the trust of the people through their actions.

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