December 9, 2019

December 2019 Update from the Affordability Steering Committee and Working Group

Kimmel Center View

Photo by Sy Abudu

In February 2016, a month into his new role at NYU, President Andrew Hamilton announced affordability as a University priority. In response, with the help of two committees convened to help look for ways to make NYU more affordable, the University adopted approaches that relied principally on five complementary efforts:

  • Restraining growth in cost of attendance
  • Taking other administrative actions to reduce costs for students and families
  • Increasing financial aid
  • Offering new opportunities for students to earn more money in support of their education
  • Ensuring the value of an NYU education

Catalyzing the Community

Early in his tenure, President Hamilton named students, faculty, and staff to a new Affordability Steering Committee. To execute on ideas and strategy, a complementary Working Group of administrators with oversight of major operational units was established. Over the past three years, the two groups have worked and continue to work in parallel to pursue the goal of making NYU more affordable for more students. This report is an opportunity to reflect on our progress to date, and reinforce President Hamilton’s and our commitment to ongoing work.

Soon after being charged, the Committee and Working Group turned to the IdeaScale online platform in an attempt to generate ideas from across our community and were delighted and grateful for the significant response. Just under 4,700 unique individuals logged in to generate 1,203 ideas that received 21,483 votes and 602 comments. Ten in-person “How Might We?” sessions supplemented the online activity. We also educated ourselves through reviewing published work in the area and learning from the challenges other colleges faced and how they were approaching the issue of affordability.

Three Years of Restrained Growth in the Cost of Attendance

Tuition: Due to the relatively small size of NYU’s endowment per student, tuition and fees make up the single biggest source of revenue for the University. They are also typically the single biggest cost for someone attending NYU.

NYU’s tuition ranks 89th in the US according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s analysis from 2018-19.

By moderating the growth in tuition, room, and board, we have sought to make an NYU undergraduate education more affordable across the board.

Revising the budget: Beginning in 2016 with the preparation of the 2016-17 financial plan, President Hamilton introduced budget changes to improve affordability. By reducing planned increases in tuition and fees for undergraduates and freezing room, board, and administrative fees at the previous year’s levels, NYU achieved the smallest increase in cost of attendance in over 20 years.

Since that first year, the University has twice repeated the restrained increases in tuition, fees, room, and board, keeping those increases under 3%. The cumulative achievement over three years is significant and important:

NYU's efforts in restraining cost of attendance increases is lower than that of its peer schools, at 8% between 2016-2019

Fig. 1: The cumulative effect of restrained tuition growth—NYU vs. some key competitors

Cost-of-Attendance Rankings

2015-2016 Rankings

1 Sarah Lawrence
2 Harvey Mudd
3 Columbia
5 U. Chicago
6 Claremont McKenna
7 Bard
8 Scripps
9 Dartmouth
10 Olin

2018- 2019 Rankings*

Johns Hopkins
Hobart & William Smith

Point of Pride

The cumulative effect of restraining increases over the last four years is the lowest four-year increase in more than 20 years. The result is that NYU fell 35 positions on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s rankings of most expensive universities, from 4th in cost-of-attendance in 2016 to 39th currently. And on tuition alone, NYU ranks 89th.

*Source: Most-Expensive 4-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions, 2018-2019, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The several years of restrained growth in cost of attendance has built a reduced cost base for students, as demonstrated by NYU’s relative position in the Chronicle’s list. The revenue foregone by restraining increases—totaling over $45 million—was made up in part by targeted savings in energy, procurement, IT administrative efficiencies, and other non-personnel costs.

However, for NYU, restraining tuition costs will be a challenge. As the curtailed revenue begins to cut into resources for academic investment, the current trajectory will be difficult to sustain.  

Administrative Actions to Reduce Costs for Students

In our effort to make NYU more affordable, we have looked for other parts of the student experience that have significant costs attached.

Books, class materials and computers

The cost of books was a major pain point that emerged from IdeaScale. We set a goal of significantly cutting the average spending per student on books and course materials, and are pleased that we have achieved an average 40% reduction to date (we understand that depending on course selection and student preference, this isn’t true for every student, but we believe we have put in the mechanisms to make it achievable for most students.)

Achieving this goal involved several different efforts.

One path was to reduce the amount of course material students had to purchase. We are grateful that numerous faculty substituted free online material and limited necessary book purchases to material that would be covered in the course. CAS, as an example, developed online modules for two core introductory economics courses that saved students $300 each, and CAS achieved an overall savings for students of $80,000 in another required course by using Open Educational Resources instead of requiring textbooks. We continue to encourage faculty to be mindful of the cost of course-related materials.


NYU Bookstore

Point of Pride

More and more NYU faculty have been looking for no-cost or low-cost course materials for their students to help them hold down textbook-related costs. However, three NYU Law School faculty—Barton Beebe, Jeanne Fromer, and Christopher Jon Sprigman—have taken it a step further, creating law textbooks on trademark and copyright that they offer free not just to NYU students, but to law students across the country.  

Another element was to contract out our bookstore operations. By doing so with a major operator of campus bookstores, students were able to take advantage of the lower prices the vendor could leverage. The contractor also introduced tools that allow faculty to see the price of proposed course materials and make better informed, less costly choices. Additionally, the new bookstore contractor created a textbook grants program which has helped over 1,000 students to date with $200 for books and will continue to provide $100,000 per year through the 10-year contact.

Finally, the bookstore introduced an option for faculty to use a new portal that has students receiving their text digitally in NYU Classes on the first day of class. This program, called IncludED, can save students up to 70% on the price of a new textbook. The total student savings for Fall 2019 was $454,594.

The cost of a computer is also a challenge. We launched a pilot to explore the feasibility of Chromebooks—a much less expensive option—and found that the lower cost devices have been a viable option for many of our students. The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and the School of Professional Studies have adopted the Chromebook loan pilot program for their individual schools.  


Housing costs are a major factor in cost of attendance at NYU. Since we began the affordability initiative, the University converted 700 beds to lower-cost undergraduate housing. Lower-cost beds now makeup nearly 30% of total residence hall beds and save students who make that choice approximately 18% in housing charges, or just over $1,500.

We also organized a pilot referral program with the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens that connects graduate students interested in intergenerational housing with seniors who have an extra room. This is a win-win—a lower cost housing situation for the students, and a source of income for the senior. So far, a handful of students are living in intergenerational home shares. It is a small start, but there is national interest in intergenerational housing and the hope is to learn from NYU’s small pilot group and find ways to expand this opportunity. We are gratified to be partnering with Professor Ernest Gonzales at the Silver School of Social Work on this effort.


Students identified the cost of food—or, more generally, food insecurity—as another major pain point. In the last few years, this issue has become more and more prevalent across campuses in the US.

For Fall 2017, we restructured meal plans to introduce a new lower-cost default plan for first-years and to increase the available options.

And the process of selecting a new food service vendor–Chartwells–for Fall 2019 specifically included affordability considerations. Accordingly, with Chartwells’ launch, NYU is now offering Big Meal Deals–rotating special meal offers in the $3 - $5 range–and Love, NYU Eats—pop-up, complimentary food offerings.

Chartwells is also hosting a dining incubator, a think tank with students, faculty, and dining leadership that will help to include community members from diverse areas of the University to create innovations in dining. Each semester the Incubator will take on a new focus project; the Fall 2019 focus project is developing new meal plans for the NYU community. These new meal plans will be available for Fall 2020 academic year.

During 2018-19, the University also convened a Food Insecurity Working Group. In response to its recommendations, we enhanced the Courtesy Meals program, which offers $75 dining dollars, no questions asked, for short-term nutritional assistance; nearly 3,900 unique students have made use of the program since its inception. The program may be transitioning to $25 and five meal swipes. The University has also worked with student government representatives to promote the student-created Share Meals app and the “Free Food at NYU” Facebook group.



Both the University and NYU students have long wished that the government would subsidize subway and bus fares for college students; however, there has not been much openness to this on the part of the MTA.

We've increased the total number of shuttle trips between the Brooklyn and Manhattan campuses from 50 in Fall 2016 to 92 trips in Fall 2019 (including 10 trips on the weekends). Through October 27th, this has resulted in a 282% ridership increased.

Beginning this Fall, we modified our partnership with SuperShuttle to be discount-based through a University discount code. This change has made it possible to shift the offering from exclusive to NYU community members during specific periods of the academic year and from three locations around WSQ and Bk to available anytime of the year from any location south of 116th street in Manhattan and 6 Metrotech Center in Brooklyn. Additionally, this modification has led to the addition of Newark as an airport option. For the beginning of this academic year, this enhancement led to a 66% passenger increase (including 104 Newark passengers) compared to Fall 2018. From September 1st through October 28th, a total of 307 rides have been reserved with 77 (25%) involving Newark.

And the Tisch School of the Arts has offered MetroCards to some undergraduate drama students studying in studios not served by NYU’s regular transportation service.


Shortening the time to degree is one way to make NYU more affordable for more students. This opportunity has always existed at NYU, but the Steering Committee and Working Group wanted to make sure all NYU students understood it was available. NYU Accelerate was launched to better inform undergraduate students of the opportunity to graduate in three and a half years or even three years, and to make it easier to do so.

With the launch of NYU Accelerate, each school has designated an acceleration adviser to help students navigate this path, many schools have added two-credit courses to make it possible for students to take 18 credits a semester without additional charge, and several schools have adopted more flexible policies on accepting credits from both advanced placement courses in high school and courses taken at other institutions.

In addition, NYU offers options to accelerate getting both an undergraduate and masters or professional degree, as well as double masters programs. In the last few years, we have seen additional activity in this area. These programs reduce the traditional time to masters or professional degree by about one year. Examples of existing programs include but are not limited to:

Single school programs

  • BS/MS in Meyers
  • BA/MA at Steinhardt
  • BS/MS at Stern
  • BA/MS at SPS
  • BS/MS at Tandon
  • BS/MA at Tisch

Cross school programs

  • BA/MA at CAS/ Steinhardt
  • BA/MPA at CAS, Global Liberal Studies, Gallatin/ Wagner
  • BA/MUP at CAS, Tandon/ Wagner
  • BA/DDS at CAS/ Dentistry
  • BA/MPH at Gallatin/ GPH
  • BA/MA at Tisch/ Steinhardt
  • DDS/MBA at Dentistry/ Stern

With an announcement in May 2019, the Provost’s Office launched a comprehensive initiative, NYU x NYU (“NYU by NYU”), that addresses affordability and creates pathways for undergraduates to pursue graduate and professional degrees. The first new program that is being rolled out as part of NYU x NYU is the CAS professional pathway to a Stern MBA, a streamlined admission option for CAS graduates beginning with the Class of 2019. Admitted students will be able to enroll in Stern two to five years after graduating from CAS and will automatically receive a $10,000 Early Advancement Award to be applied to their full-time MBA tuition once they enroll. They will also be eligible for additional scholarships, including a specially designated Berkley Early Advancement Fellowship covering one year of full tuition and fees at Stern. Over time, the Provost’s Office will engage with all of NYU’s schools to strengthen pathways between our undergraduate and professional schools.

Financial Aid and Fundraising


On the fundraising front, in fall 2018 the University completed the Momentum Campaign, which raised nearly $1.3 billion for scholarships, exceeding the campaign’s goal by some $300 million.

Against the backdrop of the fundraising effort, the University was taking steps to enhance institutional grant aid (that is, scholarship funding provided by NYU that does not have to be repaid. Since 2017, the average undergraduate institutional aid grant has increased by 27% to $34,700, a record high. And over the last 10 years, as the average debt upon graduation has grown nationally, it has declined by 18% at NYU, and is now below the national average here. As NYU prepares for its next fundraising campaign, scholarship support will continue to be a priority.

The University-wide NYU One Day fundraising initiative held its 4th annual day of giving on March 28th, 2019. The day was a huge success, achieving $1.5 million from 4,443 donations in 24 hours, most of which goes to financial aid for students. This represents a 27% increase from the 3,494 donations year-over-year, and a $300,000 increase in dollars raised.

NYU One Day

Financial aid, scholarships, loan forgiveness, and tuition discounts

NYU spends nearly $340 million annually on undergraduate financial aid alone at the NYC campus. Overall, financial aid covers many scholarship and loan forgiveness programs. Among them:

  • In May 2016, NYU tripled Yellow Ribbon grants from $3,500 per year to $10,000 per year for eligible undergraduate veterans. Gallatin, the School of Professional Studies, and Wagner also increased their graduate Yellow Ribbon grant amounts, and the Stern School of Business and Meyers College of Nursing removed restrictions on the number of Yellow Ribbon students they would accept.
  • In a groundbreaking move, NYU School of Medicine announced in fall of 2018 that it would become a tuition-free medical school and later on it extended to the students at NYU Winthrop.
  • In spring of 2017 NYU launched Rising Violets, a crowdfunding platform. Rising Violets had another stellar year with more than 3,100 gifts, a 26.3% increase from FY18. The platform raised over $3 million dollars for special project funding, almost tripling the dollars from the prior year.
  • Since 2015, the NYU Prison Education Program has offered an Associate of Arts degree and educational programming to men incarcerated at Wallkill Correctional Facility. Eight students have received an AA degree, free of charge, through the program at Walkill. The credits earned through the program are transferable to study at NYU for those students admitted to NYU. As of Spring 2019, there are two students completing their AA degree at SPS with full funding. There are seven students pursuing their BA degree; all of these students are fully funded and receive a $10,000 stipend.
  • As of Fall 2020, The Horizon Grant will provide two full scholarships, based on need, to formerly incarcerated people.
  • In partnership with Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), Gallatin faculty and advisors select and mentor five high-achieving BMCC students who then transfer to NYU Gallatin for their last two years with full scholarships.
  • NYU Meyers has more than 30 donor-named and foundation scholarships to award to nursing students. In the fall of 2019 NYU Meyers awarded $405,774 in named scholarships to undergraduate and graduate nursing students.
  • In 2016, Stern established the Fertitta Veterans Program, an innovative program specifically designed for US military veterans and active-duty students to support their transition to business school — financially, academically, and professionally. Approximately 20 incoming full-time MBA military veterans are accepted each year into the Fertitta Veterans Program, and receive scholarship support that reduces their tuition to a flat $30,000 per year.
  • The NY Cyber Fellowship provides a 75% scholarship, lowering the tuition to $16,000, for Tandon’s elite online Cybersecurity Master’s Degree.
  • Since 2016, through extensive fundraising efforts, donor-funded scholarship awards at Stern have grown 57% for undergraduate and 63% for graduate students.
  • NYU Law offers one of the most generous loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP) in the country for graduates pursuing public service jobs. This 10 year program allows borrowers to pay $0 out of pocket towards law school debt and also covers up to $30,000 in non-law school debt.
  • As of Spring 2019, all US veterans and service members are eligible for a 20% discount on SPS noncredit courses and programs.
  • NYU School of Professional Studies offers reduced-cost associate degrees. Those who complete one of these degrees can apply the credits earned toward an SPS Bachelor’s degree.
  • Stern reduced the tuition costs for the BS/MS Accounting program by over 14% in summer 2017, and have held it flat for two years, through summer 2019.
  • “A Bridge to NYU Tandon” provides those with a degree in liberal arts or similar with a one-course online program to upgrade math, science, or engineering knowledge in preparation for an application to an NYU Tandon School of engineering graduate program. This gateway program costs $1,500.
  • The Wagner MS in Public Policy program is offering graduating undergraduate students in CAS and Gallatin a 25% tuition discount.
  • The new GPH FastApp initiative allows current NYU undergraduates to apply to GPH for seven different MPH concentrations without completing standardized entrance applications and exams, saving students hundreds of dollars.

Certificates and Online Programs

  • NYU College of Dentistry and College of Global Public Health (GPH) have created a joint DDS/Online Advanced Certificate in Public Health (CPH) Program through which dental students can complete both the DDS and the certificate in four years.
  • GPH now offers six low-cost certificate programs that can serve as pathways[5] into the Master of Public Health (MPH) at lower overall cost.
  • A fully online Sustainable Development Goals-MPH allows students to earn an MPH at NYU without having to relocate to New York City or forfeit employment opportunities.  

Student Employment

Providing opportunities for students to earn money on campus is another way to address affordability.

In March 2016, President Hamilton announced that NYU would set a new, higher minimum for student wages of $15/hour. In line with that, schools, departments and units have also been encouraged to decrease their spending on temporary employees and hire students instead where appropriate. We are proud to report that since FY 2017, the hiring of temp workers has decreased by 20% and the hiring of students is up 22%.

The prevalence of unpaid internships for college students remains a national problem (although New York state has now required for-profit businesses to pay interns). Absent a shift in the culture of internships, NYU has sought to offer grants to students who take unpaid internships. The Wasserman Center offers 500 grants of $1,000 during the fall, spring, and summer terms to provide financial assistance to students pursuing unpaid internships. Internship subsidies are also offered at Gallatin, through its Mike Bender award; the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis offers $1,500 stipends to eligible juniors and seniors interning in government or non-profit organizations; the Law School, where all first and second year JD students who have summer jobs with qualifying public interest organizations receive $4,500 and $6,500 stipends respectively; Stern, through the Social Impact Internship Fund, which allows selected first-year MBA students to apply for social impact roles; Tisch, through its Ulrich-Stewart Family Internship Award; and Wagner, the Ellen Schall Experience Fund, which awards 30+ students with $7,500 stipends to take on unpaid summer internships. We applaud these schools for their commitment and would encourage other schools to consider this.  

The Value of NYU: Student Success, Outcomes, and Accessibility

We have worked to address multiple components that could contribute to making NYU more affordable for more students. At the same time, we also appreciate that affordability is best understood as part of NYU’s overall effort to increase access for students from diverse backgrounds, enhance student success, and underscore the value of an NYU education. Student success speaks to both the student experience while at NYU and after NYU.

Student Success

Student success takes many forms at NYU—a high rate of graduation, preparation and support for the workforce or graduate and professional school, financial literacy—but they all enhance the value of an NYU education, and they all contribute to maximizing the advantages of pursuing—and completing—a degree.

For example, NYU’s strength lies not just in the excellence of its individual schools but in the breadth of its offerings. One opportunity to take advantage of that the affordability initiative crafted is called Professional Edge, which allows NYU juniors and seniors to take non-credit courses at SPS at no cost.

Helping students and families better understand the financial landscape related to financing the cost of higher education is important—it helps ensure that those who start at NYU finish by obtaining their degrees. NYU has contracted with iGrad, a financial education platform that provides access to the tools necessary to be successful with contemporary personal finance. iGrad is a resource to prospective and current students, as well as faculty and staff.

We have also worked to streamline the Financial Aid appeal process, making it more transparent and creating an online mechanism that allows students, starting in fall 2019, to alert the university when they have financial concerns.

Post-graduation employment

One important measure of student success involves tracking students post-graduation. Externally, the most recent Times Higher Ed’s Global University Employability Ranking—which polls recruiters from top companies—ranked NYU as #8 in the US and #15 globally in producing the most employable graduates in 2018.

In addition, NYU also makes efforts internally to track student outcomes. The Wasserman Center for Career Development produces an annual Life Beyond the Square (PDF) set of statistics on the status of each undergraduate class. The statistics for the class of 2018 continue to show impressive results:

Infographic 1. Career Outcomes Rate. See full description in Accessible Infographics expandable text.

Infographic 2. Percentage of students working and in graduate school. See full description in Accessible Infographics expandable text.

Infographic 3. Length of time to secure employment. See full description in Accessible Infographics expandable text.

Infographic 4. Mean salary and signing bonus. See full description in Accessible Infographics expandable text.

Infographic 5. Number of job offers received. See full description in Accessible Infographics expandable text.


Access underscores the commitment NYU has to students from all backgrounds. One way to understand NYU’s role in providing access to low income students and acting as an engine of social mobility is to look at the work of Professor Raj Chetty and colleagues.

In their 2017 study, they examine colleges and intergenerational mobility. In a key measure—the percent of students enrolled who come from households in the bottom two income quintiles—NYU ranked 5th among a set of 75 top private colleges on this dimension. And on another key measure—which Chetty et al. called a “mobility rate” (the percent of students from the lowest income households who later achieved earnings in the top for their cohort), NYU ranked 4th.

Chetty’s data came from looking at students between 1999 and 2013. We continue to focus on access and are proud that for the class of 2023, first generation college students comprise 18% of the accepted class. And in 2018, 20% of the enrolled first years received Pell grants. We are proud to have increased the financial aid budget by 80% since 2013 from $244M per year to $440M per year.

And in this 50th anniversary year of New York State’s Higher Education—which is designed to provide a college education to educationally and economically disadvantaged New Yorkers—NYU is proud to have the largest program, with some 575 students. A participant in HEOP for decades, NYU’s program has been highly successful, with a HEOP graduation rate that exceeds NYU’s overall graduation rate.

Policy Agenda

The Affordability Steering Committee has been gratified to have been able to identify changes and take action at NYU to improve affordability. However, all levels of government continue to have an important role in the affordability equation as there are multiple ways in which higher education in general, and NYU in particular, are affected by local, state and federal funding or lack thereof. NYU Government Affairs has kept affordability as a major priority and is continually advocating for increases in financial aid programs. We’re gratified to have seen notable increases over the past three years in Federal award amount for Pell Grants, Federal Work Study program, and the Supplemental Education Opportunity Program (SEOG). Along with peer institutions, we have also worked to help ensure the continuation of The American Opportunity Tax Credit and Student Loan Interest Deduction, and The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Finally, at the state level, the STEM Incentive Scholarship program has been expanded to include private universities and the NYS Legislature and Governor finalized passage of NYS DREAM Act, allowing eligible undocumented students to benefit from state financial aid programs.

The Government Affairs office also works with schools on specific policy proposals that relate to affordability. For example, they assisted the College of Dentistry advocate a proposal to amend the Doctors Across New York Program to include dentists and create a New York State Dental Faculty Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program. Government Affairs also supports workforce development programs at NYU that increase access to educational and certificate programs, such as the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Veteran Entrepreneurship Training (VET) Program that provides veterans the ability to transition into entrepreneurship.

Shaded Bar

The Work Continues

We look forward to continuing our work on making NYU more affordable for more students and are grateful for all the NYU community has done to demonstrate our commitment to this important work.