We are the cuny rising alliance


The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest urban university system in the United States, and has a historic place in New York City as a driver of social mobility. From its founding in 1847, CUNY aimed to provide free (or low-cost) education to New Yorkers and provided a pathway to the middle class for generations of low-income and immigrant communities. But not all students had access to CUNY — including many students of color.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, CUNY expanded its vision of free education by dropping all tuition fees and opening up eligibility to any student with a high school diploma. But when the fiscal crisis hit in 1976, the city faced pressure from the state and federal government to end its free tuition program, halting the promise of mobility for generations of New Yorkers. Unfortunately, politicians’ commitment to a free and quality CUNY has fluctuated in the decades since the crisis. Given the historical role CUNY has played in educating the city’s most vulnerable populations, the abandonment of a free and quality CUNY by politicians has caused many to question whether New York’s leaders believe that educating and supporting poor communities, communities of color, and immigrants is a priority.

CUNY remains the single most powerful higher education engine nationally, moving more students out of poverty than all the Ivy League colleges combined. However, CUNY has recently faced substantial disinvestment from the state government, resulting in soaring tuition costs and deterioration in the quality of education. Since 2008, the investment per full-time student by the state, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by 18 percent. CUNY students struggle to graduate as they face a weakened university infrastructure, and many New Yorkers are faced with the choice between completing a degree and surviving in a city that is leaving behind the people who built it.

The CUNY Rising Alliance was formed in 2015 in response to the University’s crisis. It has brought together students, workers, and communities under one banner to fight for a CUNY that gives communities and students what they deserve: access to quality higher education. Rhetoric about CUNY’s radical history is not enough — the State, City and CUNY itself must no longer let down its founding promise. We are building the movement to hold CUNY accountable and to demand that the State and City fully invest in higher education, so communities across New York City get the education they need and deserve.

We are leading the fight for a free and quality CUNY for all — will you join us?



What we stand for


Free and Quality CUNY

We are an alliance brought together in a belief that CUNY should be accessible to all, and provide high-quality education regardless of your race or income.


Education is a Human Right

We know that public universities and colleges are under attack and must be defended to ensure universal access to higher education.


Prosperity for All

Everyone deserves to thrive and succeed in life. We demand a free and quality public education system that lifts people up, starting at birth, and builds equality within each community. CUNY is the city’s most powerful engine for moving people out of poverty and should be strengthened as the heart of New York City.


Redistribution of Wealth

We believe that those who benefit the most from the current structures of power in society should pay their fair share. This means funding CUNY through progressive means, and not moving money within a starved public institution or from one starved public institution to another.


CUNY is New York City

We are led by low-income communities and communities of color, which have suffered most from disinvestment in the CUNY system. These are the voices that are elevated in our campaign. Investment in CUNY serves every community across every borough. Cuts to CUNY rip the very fabric of our city.


Solidarity is a Verb

We are creating authentic and mutually beneficial relationships with students, workers, and communities. This includes working in solidarity with other causes to build the power of all oppressed peoples in the fight for justice.


Equity and Human Dignity

We respect the value that every human being brings to our city and strive for a truly inclusive society. We have a responsibility to repair the harm done to communities of color through systemic biases and diminishing support for public goods. Protecting and expanding opportunities for all people means that we improve and invest in our public institutions.



Resources for a Free and Quality CUNY

These resources explain our vision for a free and quality CUNY. Feel free to download and share.

Platform for Change

CUNY Students Bill of Rights