Dr. Gempesaw Testifies Before New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee

University president focuses on St. John’s efforts to reduce costs and be more accessible, affordable, and accountable.

December 7, 2016

Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s University, was invited to give public testimony at a hearing of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education and Subcommittee on the Tuition Assistance Program. The subject of the hearing held in Albany, New York, was “The Rising Costs of Higher Education and Student Loan Debt in New York State.”

Dr. Gempesaw joined Laura L. Anglin, President of The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities, and Amy Doonan Cronin, Executive Director of the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium, in providing testimony on ways to reduce and relieve student loan debt and efforts to make higher education more affordable.

In his formal testimony, Dr. Gempesaw recounted how, in 2015, St. John’s took bold steps to freeze tuition, fees, and room and board—and even reduced undergraduate tuition by $10,370 at the Staten Island campus. In addition, Dr. Gempesaw described how, with the commitment and support of the entire University community, efforts continue on campus to increase efficiency, reduce administrative expenses, and raise strategic awareness of the importance of being resourceful in support of students.

Dr. Gempesaw testified that the decision to freeze and reset tuition, as well as a dramatic reduction in administrative expenses, helped the University to pass on more than $14 million of tuition savings to the students at St. John’s, many of whom have high financial need. Providing the committee members with data and increased student success outcomes, which include a five percentage point increase in freshmen retention rates, Dr. Gempesaw explained the result of financial decisions being made at St. John’s.

“I am proud to state that during the past two years St. John’s has experienced a 16.5 percent increase in enrollment at our Queens campus, with an average of 3,250 freshmen students enrolled each year. This gives St. John’s the distinction of enrolling the largest entering freshmen cohort of any Catholic college or university in the country, and the third largest freshmen class of any private college or university in New York State,” Dr. Gempesaw remarked. 

Demonstrating the enduring local New York appeal that St. John’s University has established throughout its 146-year history, Dr. Gempesaw added, “We also have the distinction of enrolling the largest number of freshmen coming from the state of New York, more than any other private university or college in the state.”

During the question and answer session immediately following the testimony, New York State Assembly member Deborah J. Glick (66th Assembly District) and the Chair of the Higher Education Committee, praised Dr. Gempesaw for efforts made by St. John’s University to make college more affordable. “You are to be commended for setting an example,” she said. 

When asked by  NYS Assembly member Jo Anne Simon (52nd Assembly District) how much of the efforts and cooperation to make a dramatic change to reduce costs was “mission driven,” Dr. Gempesaw replied that the Vincentian mission to help those most in need is what guides all decision making at St. John’s.