City lawmakers propose free MetroCards for CUNY students

An MTA rider uses a MetroCard to ride NYC transit.
An MTA rider uses a MetroCard to ride NYC transit. Photo Credit: Mario Gonzalez

City lawmakers want CUNY to offer its students a free ride — on buses and subways at least.

Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez and Inez Barron on Thursday will introduce a resolution calling on CUNY to put money in its next budget for free MetroCards.

“Our CUNY students are under a lot of stress because they have to cover tuition, textbooks, child care, rent, food and other basic necessities,” said Barron, who chairs the higher education committee. “If we can offer MetroCards free of charge to all CUNY students that would eliminate a tremendous burden.”

Rodriguez recalled walking from his Inwood apartment to the City College campus in Harlem when he was enrolled and unable to afford transportation.

“If we can be able to tell those kids you will have free transportation, those few dollars that they have to spend” can instead buy books or food at their school’s cafeteria, said Rodriguez, who chairs the transportation committee.

CUNY already helps out students in its Accelerated Study in Associate Programs with free MetroCards, in addition to waived tuition costs and money to pay for books.

“MetroCards for these students does help to keep students on track to graduation when combined with advisement and student responsibility,” said Michael Arena, CUNY communications director. “Therefore we want to look closely at this new proposal.”

The city’s K-12 students get reduced or free MetroCards, costing $244.3 million a year, with the MTA getting $45 million from the city and $25.3 million in state funds to cover the program.

The public university system is expecting from the city $32.3 million for its senior colleges and $285.2 million for community colleges, according to a CUNY analysis of budget plans.

Barron called on the state to fund the transit benefits, while Rodriguez said CUNY, the city and the state should chip in to cover costs. CUNY has roughly 270,000 full- and part-time students in its undergrad and graduate schools; costs could range from around $30 million for reduced fares and up to $375 million for full coverage.

“If we cannot do it for all of our students at CUNY,” Rodriguez said, “at least we can start looking at students at community college.”