Growing Columbia tuition strike threat wins concessions

Columbia University will increase spring financial aid and drop late fees for January tuition payments
By: | January 5, 2021
Columbia University students threatening to strike this spring want administrators to cut tuition, fees, and room and board by at least 10%, and increase financial aid by a similar amount. They're also calling for public safety reforms.Columbia University students threatening to strike this spring want administrators to cut tuition, fees, and room and board by at least 10%, and increase financial aid by a similar amount. They're also calling for public safety reforms.

A threatened tuition strike at Columbia University gained support over the holidays as the administration began to make concessions to concerned students.

Since the action began in early December, nearly 4,000 students have signed a pledge to withhold spring tuition payments beginning Jan. 22, the student organizers said.

In response, Columbia University administrators say they will increase spring financial aid and drop late fees for January tuition payments.

Students at the School of General Studies will also receive grants for summer classes, the organizers said.


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“The national significance is that college students around the country are facing similar issues during the COVID pandemic and the student debt crisis,” Izabel Depina, an organizer, said in an email. “The scope of the movement expands beyond a tuition reduction to other democratically supported demands … such as movements to address institutional racism and divestment campaigns.”

The strike threat will continue until the administration meets the remaining demands. Organizers also want the university to use endowment funds to reduce the cost of attendance for the spring semester by 10%.

Among the group’s other demands are:

  • Public safety: Invest in community solutions that prioritize the safety of Black students and West Harlem residents, and repair harm caused by prior racist public safety practices.
  • Investment: Complying with student referendums calling for divestment from companies involved in human rights violations and fossil fuels.
  • Labor: Work with campus labor unions to improve compensation, benefits and protections.

An international town hall—focused on spreading the tuition movement to other campuses—was hosted by the strike’s organizers in December, and was attended by students from 75 colleges and universities.


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