Student Tuition: An Early Attempt That Failed

Baruch College, and its predecessor, the College of the City of New York, has a history of enrolling students who are interested in fighting for issues that affect their college as well as their community, state and nation. Whether it is by petition, rally, strike or more aggressive action, students made their voices heard. Some of the issues that students were involved with include war, student fees, military training, and fascism. W hatever the issue the passion with which it was fought is a testament to the commitment of the student body.

The Free Academy was established in 1847 as the first free public institution of higher education in the United States. Its mission originally was to provide an opportunity for young men from immigrant or working class families an opportunity for education beyond grammar school. In 1866 its name changed to the College of the City of New York, but its mission remained the same.

Since its earliest years there were issues with its free tuition policy, but against all odds it remained intact. However, in 1932 with rage rising in students over the military, the rise of fascism and other problems, protest over tuition brought students together not only from the School of Business, and the uptown campus of City College, but also from Hunter College and the newly founded Brooklyn College.

Starting on May 3, 1932, The Campus, the student newspaper of the St. Nicholas campus of City College, began chronicling the tuition question. An article appeared titled, “Education Leaders Comment on Fees.”

“…in an attempt to forestall such action, the New York chapter of the National Student League yesterday called upon all extra-curricular organizations at the free city institutions to send delegates to a conference to be held Friday, May 6, at its headquarters,…” [1]

Newspaper clipping: Students denounce fees at colleges.

The Campus, May 20, 1932 CCNY Digital Archive.


National Student League Taminent Library, NYU,

National Student League, Taminent Library, NYU

On May 17th, The Campus reported on the Hunter College Student Convention which voted to adopt a resolution against any fees for Hunter. The meeting was attended by more than  800 undergraduates.[2]

In the May 20th edition of the paper news of possible new fees dominated the columns. In an article, “Students Denounce Fees at Colleges,” it says,

“that Brooklyn College undergraduates took the initiative, Wednesday, in the present protests against the Board’s decison by holding a special mass meeting, attended by approximately 800 students before the Borough Hall.” [3]

On May 23rd there was a protest of 3,000 students at CCNY over a fee increase for evening students. [4]

The protests continued and leaflets were distributed which tried to prove that an increase in fees would force most of the students to discontinue their studies.  In addition, over 2,600 Brooklyn College students signed a petition protesting the fee. It was estimated that it would be $22.50 a semester or $46 a year. [5]

The next day, May 28th, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the Board of Higher Education decided not to impose any tuition fees for regularly matriculated students in the day sessions or evening sessions of all three municipal colleges. [6]

It was a victory for the students, but the battle would continue, and unfortunately, eventually a tuition fee would be instituted. The fight continues today as the commitment of the city and state to an affordable college education is challenged.

1969 student protest, CUNY. CUNY Digital History

1969 student protest, CUNY, CUNY Digital History


[1]  “Education Leaders Comment on Fees,” The Campus, May 3, 1932,  p.3.

[2] “Hunter College Student Convention,” The Campus, May 17, 1932, p.1.

[3] “Students Denounce Fees at Colleges,” The Campus, May 20, 1932, p.1.

[4] CCNY Exhibit, “The Struggle for Free Speech,”

[5] “Students Continue Objection to Fees,” The Campus, May 27, 1932, p.1,4.

[6] “Only Limited Students Hit By Fee Plans,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 28, 1932, p.3.


One thought on “Student Tuition: An Early Attempt That Failed

  1. Good history. And let’s not forget the 1934 uprising against the autocratic CCNY President Frederick B. Robinson and Italian Fascism. He called the student protesters guttersnipes.

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