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Vallone slams cuts to CUNY scholarships

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City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) joined a room full of Queens College students this week to blast proposed city budget cuts that would eliminate a scholarship fund created 13 years ago by his father.

The scholarship, which was founded in 1997 by former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., provides money for City University of New York students who maintain at least a B average and have enrolled full time within one year after their high school graduation.

Queens has four CUNY schools, including Flushing’s Queens College, Jamaica’s York College, Long Island City’s LaGuardia Community College and Bayside’s Queensborough Community College.

The scholarship is offered to an estimated 14,000 students in the CUNY system. It is completely funded by city money, not matching funds.

“Education is the greatest tool for success we can give to our young,” Vallone said Monday at Queens College’s Rosenthal Library. “These cuts are Albany’s fault. Every year New York City balances its budget and every year Albany takes $14 billion more from the city than it gives back.”

The amount each student is awarded from the scholarship varies each year depending on how much money is appropriated from the Council in the city’s budget.

The councilman said the scholarship provided an average $1,240 per student in 2008, but only $500 per student last year. This year students who obtain the scholarship can expect $650, but it has been completely cut from next year’s budget, Vallone said.

“We want to make sure that the scholarship is a valuable aid to future generations of students,” said Gabrielle Berrezueta, a Queens College student from Roslyn, L.I.

Vallone said student tuition was increased by 14 percent this year, but other costs, such as books and the commute to school, are also becoming more expensive.

“We are trying to provide the most economic education we can,” said Sue Henderson, Queens College’s vice president for institutional advancement. “So, we’ll keep on fighting.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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