May 11, 2017

May 2017 Update from the Affordability Steering Committee and Working Group

A bird's eye view of Washington Square Park and the Arch

A birds-eye view of Washington Square Park and the Arch. Photo by Sy Abudu

Our work began a bit more than a year ago with an act of listening. In his first weeks as NYU’s new president, Andrew Hamilton, heard again and again from members of the University community how pressing the issue of affordability was and he made it a priority.

In response to the concerns he was hearing, his first action was to reduce the planned increase in cost of attendance. And to develop a range of additional affordability options, he promptly convened the Steering Committee and Working Group.

We took up the mantle of listening. Online and face-to-face, we solicited input from students, faculty, administrators, and staff about how we could make NYU more affordable, how we could ensure that in the future it would remain an engine of economic and social mobility even without the financial advantages of many of our peer schools.

And the NYU community responded. They helped us understand not only the urgency of the problem, but the dimensions. People contributed ideas, or helped shape others’ ideas. They let us know what would work better, and what would work less well. They used the process to spur on one another, to come up with new suggestions for the Committee and Working Group to consider.

As 2016–17 draws to a close, the NYU Affordability Steering Committee and the Affordability Working Group are pleased to take stock of the progress we have made over the year and to highlight several new initiatives that have been developed since our last update in February of 2017.

Slowing the Growth of Tuition

Over the last two fiscal years, NYU has taken serious steps to contain the growth in the cost of attendance to help make NYU more affordable for more students.

In 2016–17 the overall cost of attendance increased by just 2%, the smallest such increase in over 20 years. The tuition component of the increase was 2.9% — lower than that at peer institutions, whose increases ranged from 3.5% to 3.9%. Room, board, and administrative fees also were frozen at the previous year’s levels.

For academic year 2017–18, we are pleased to hold the overall cost of attendance to 2.3% for tuition, room and board, and fees, compared to typical increases in recent years of 3.5 to 3.9%. The two-year increase in cost of attendance is lower than any two-year period in the last 20 years, and significantly lower than peer schools’ increases over the same period. These smaller-than-customary increases have been made possible by a series of administrative changes and cost-saving measures.

Building Affordability into Our Planning

For the first time, all NYU schools and administrative units were asked to include an affordability section in their fiscal year 2018 budget submissions, identifying budgetary and non-budgetary initiatives in their areas. This is part of building awareness of and a commitment to affordability into our culture and operations.

While many of the initiatives identified were specific to individual units, several common themes emerged. Nearly all units indicated that they had plans to hire more students next year by shifting funds from temp agencies to direct student hires. (A third of the units have already taken advantage of the WayUp platform this year.) All of the reports described specific strategies to reduce unnecessary non-personnel costs, including working with procurement to take advantage of bulk purchasing, examining travel costs, and reducing catering and printing costs. Several schools indicated that they were freezing and reducing special student fees — Steinhardt temporarily froze and is reviewing all course and program fees for Art and Music programs; CAS eliminated the academic support fee beginning in the current fiscal year (2017); and the College of Dentistry is reviewing several fees for possible reduction in future years.

In all, nearly $10 million in savings have been identified in energy, procurement and information technology services. The removal of landline telephones in residence halls, in combination with infrastructure efficiencies in several centralized data centers, contributed to about $1 million in savings for the next fiscal year.

Two students embrace before the start of their commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium.

Two students embrace before the start of their commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium.

NYU Accelerate

Early in the information gathering phase of our work, we were surprised to learn that nearly 20% of NYU undergraduates were completing their degree requirements in less than four years. The logic of it was compelling: with savings in tuition and living costs on the one hand, and entering the job market early on the other, students could see a potential swing of up to $60,000.

We set out to make it easier for more students to accomplish what one-fifth of their classmates were already doing on their own: navigate the various pathways to early graduation. Through consultation with all the undergraduate schools, acceleration advisers were designated in each school, information was made available to students, and the effort was given a name: NYU Accelerate.

While it is too soon to gauge whether more students are actually choosing to graduate in fewer than four years — this won’t show up in graduation data for several years — overall awareness of the various components of acceleration is on the rise, and our Steering Committee and Working Group will continue to work on ways to better communicate acceleration pathways.

Many schools have added new two-credit courses (an important element of the NYU Accelerate strategy) to the curriculum for the spring and fall of 2017, including Gallatin, Stern, Steinhardt, and CAS. Likewise, several schools report that they are applying more flexibility to giving credit for courses at other institutions, which is another important element of the approach.

Humanities faculty at FAS have developed a three-year pathway for students pursuing humanities degrees, and Steinhardt and the School of Social Work are also exploring options for three year degrees for their students.

Building on the already robust interest in early graduation among NYU students, in the coming academic year we will pilot a program to admit freshmen at the beginning of the spring 2018 semester. Students admitted into the spring 2018 cohort will complete the two semesters of their freshman year in the spring and summer, and will be on track to graduate with their fall 2017 peers in 2021 or follow an accelerated track.

A student works on assignments for class while sitting in bed.

A student works on assignments for class while sitting in bed.


One of the most popular actions last year was the conversion of 650 beds to lower-cost. For next year, Housing will convert another 50 beds total in Broome Street, Greenwich Hall, and Lafayette Street to lower-cost housing, increasing the portion of lower cost beds by 28% over the two year period. Lower cost beds now make up nearly 30% of total residence hall beds and save those students approximately 18% in housing charges or almost $1500.


The opportunity for students to earn money on campus is another element of the affordability strategy. In March 2016, President Hamilton announced that NYU student wages will increase to $15 an hour, to be phased in by the 2018–2019 academic year. Last fall, we established a partnership with WayUp. This digital platform makes it easy for NYU faculty and offices to hire our students for temporary, short-term, and project-based work, while it also helps students find part-time jobs, internships, and other career opportunities. To date, over 15,000 NYU students are registered on WayUp. Early next fall, we will introduce a new feature that will enable people in the NYU community to use the platform to hire NYU students for jobs outside of NYU, such as babysitting, dog walking, event staffing, or tech help at home.

Professional Edge

Beginning in the fall of 2017 the School of Professional Studies, in collaboration with the Wasserman Center and school academic advisors, will open up its entire catalog of non-credit courses to NYU juniors and seniors — at no cost to them. Professional Edge will complement students’ academic pursuits with opportunities for career exploration and development. The program will provide academic guidance and career counseling to support student efforts to gain internships and full-time employment after graduation. Students will be able to take one course per semester; some examples include Adobe InDesign, Introduction to Digital Media, and Grantwriting.

A collection of books top the desk of an NYU student.

A collection of books top the desk of an NYU student.


Through our outreach to the community, we learned from students that the cost of course books is a major source of frustration. The Steering Committee and Working Group took those concerns to heart and pledged to reduce the cost of course materials by 50%. Faculty responded; between spring 2016 and spring 2017, 1,000 fewer books were required.

After an extensive process of research and review with students, faculty, administrators and staff, NYU is in discussions with Follett Higher Education Group to take over operations of the NYU Bookstore beginning summer 2017. Follett has a demonstrated ability to provide essential course materials and products at lower prices for students, a robust technology platform that will make it easier for faculty and students to compare costs of course materials, and a commitment to employing current NYU Bookstore staff at their current salaries.

It is expected that this step will provide more competitive prices for new textbooks — on the order of 15% lower than the standard industry markup — and introduce more alternative options — such as rentals, used books, e-books, and access to open educational resources — that will let students save an additional 25 to 70% off the price of a new textbook. Follett’s scale and national presence will also provide students with more favorable buyback opportunities. In addition, Follett will continue to honor NYU’s pay rate for undergraduate and graduate employees and give preference to hiring NYU students at the bookstore.


To help reduce travel costs, the Department of Public Safety negotiated a discounted rate for local airport shuttle service. In partnership with SuperShuttle, shuttle service is provided between NYU residence halls or the Kimmel Center and LaGuardia and JFK airports. Guests of NYU community members can also sign up for the service, so long as they are accompanied by the NYU community member during the trip.

Global Programs

The Office of Global Programs has instituted a number of changes to make study abroad programs more affordable. A new policy allows more flexibility to waive the study away deposit, removing a barrier that prevented some students from participating in study away programs. Global Programs has also prioritized the review of housing costs at global sites, and has identified new, renegotiated, or additional housing at various sites to provide lower-cost options for students who choose to study away. And most global sites have added additional programmatic activities at no extra cost.

Three students share a meal together at an NYU dining hall.

Three students share a meal together at an NYU dining hall.


The 225 flex meal plan required for new entering students will not increase in 2017–18, the third consecutive year with no increase in the required meal plan (other plans are increasing slightly). Based on positive feedback from participating students, NYU Food Services has committed to offer the Courtesy Meals program again in 2017–18. This program provides free meals for students who are in immediate need of nutritional support. Share Meals, an app that connects students with meal swipes to students in need of meal swipes, recently won the Social Venture Prize in the annual Stern $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge.


At the end of March we launched iGrad, a financial education tool available to the entire NYU community — students, faculty, staff and alumni — and even parents of NYU students. iGrad provides a wide range of financial planning tools, including calculators to compare financial aid offers, information on investing, loan options, budgeting, and more. In the coming year, the Steering Committee and Working Group will raise awareness of this free service, with upcoming messages tailored to the needs of specific audiences, including veterans, recent graduates, and new incoming students. iGrad will also be instrumental in developing informative modules for student loan borrowers who are selected to participate in the Department of Education’s Loan Counseling Experimental Site Initiative.

Community College Transfer Opportunities

We have reviewed the range of programs across the university that facilitate transfers from community college and affirmed the value of the Community College Transfer Opportunity Program (CCTOP) and our intention to seek to expand the program across the University. In 2016–17, NYU’s CCTOP programs enrolled a total of 179 new students; since the program began in 1990 almost 2,000 students have transferred to NYU.

Screen capture of the Rising Violets website showcases three featured projects raising funds.

Screen capture of the Rising Violets website showcases three featured projects raising funds.

Fundraising and Crowdfunding

NYU continues its unprecedented efforts to raise $1 billion for scholarship aid in its Momentum Campaign. As of May 3, 2017, we have raised $116,586,018 towards scholarships and financial aid this year, which brings our overall tally to $761,615,220. We remain grateful to the many generous alumni, parents and friends who have helped us reached this level in the campaign. Raising scholarship funds remains at the top of NYU’s fundraising priorities.

Rising Violets, NYU’s new crowdfunding platform, launched two crowdfunding projects this spring which added more than 150 new donors to the University. Both projects demonstrated the benefits of using social media to increase outreach and donor engagement. In total, Rising Violets launched 14 projects this year, attracting almost 800 new donors overall.

We are thrilled with the results of the NYU One Day campaign, which raised nearly $800,000 — including a $100,000 matching gift from President Hamilton and his wife Jennie. Nearly half of the total funds raised — and all of the Hamiltons’ donation — were designated for scholarships. In all, 2,769 donors made gifts to the One Day campaign, 360 of whom were first-time donors.

Shaded Bar

…And The Work Continues

The Affordability Steering Committee will carry on its efforts into the coming year, focused on the way NYU undertakes its administrative and academic tasks, and building not just on the work we have already begun, but also on the beneficial pattern we have developed: soliciting a wide range of ideas, listening carefully, and implementing proposals, which then gives rise to new ideas.