Craig Newmark Is Donating $10M to Help CUNY’s Journalism School Become Tuition-Free

The school aims to raise an additional $30 million to become tuition-free by 2026.

Group of students seated in chairs listening to speaker
Graduate journalism students at Newmark J-School’s campus on 219 W. 40th St. Rachel Davíla Ramírez

The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York wants to be the first graduate journalism program to offer free tuition.

The New York City-based institution today (Jan. 25) announced plans to grow its endowment to $60 million by 2026 to cover the tuition of its full student body in perpetuity. Founded in 2006, the Newmark Journalism School has long offered a public alternative to private, elite journalism programs across the nation, according to its dean Graciela Mochkofsky.

“After the pandemic, we realized that even though we were one of the most affordable schools in the country, we were seeing an increasing need from our students,” Mochkofsky told Observer. “We started thinking about how to get to tuition-free.”

With a new donation from Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and longtime supporter of the Newmark Journalism School, the program’s plans are off to a solid start. Newmark has committed $10 million to boost the school’s current endowment to $30 million, a gift that will help cover tuition for 50 percent of the school’s class beginning in August of next year.

“One-time grants to schools and newsrooms are an important piece of the puzzle,” Newmark told Observer. “But if we’re serious about the future of trustworthy journalism as democracy’s immune system, we’ve got to create ways to make the pipeline and product more resilient to economics and shifting moods. Endowments help do that.”

Newmark’s commitment adds to a previous $20 million he donated in 2018 to CUNY’s journalism program, which the City University of New York recognized by renaming the school in honor of the philanthropist. “Trustworthy journalists who speak truth to power help defend the country by defending our democracy,” said Newmark, who has also been a prominent donor to organizations focused on veteran support and cybersecurity protections.

A path to free tuition

The Newmark Journalism School has been gradually inching towards free tuition for some time. Tuition was covered for 20 percent of students in the class of 2023, 25 percent of the program’s current class and 35 percent of the new class being enrolled.

If the school’s goal of raising $30 million in the next two years is achieved, this figure will reach 100 percent by its 20th anniversary in 2026. The journalism program has launched a capital campaign and received some soft commitments from other major funders, according to Mochkofsky. It is additionally fundraising for other initiatives related to research, faculty, facilities and new programs. Curriculums that reflect the emergence of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and the technology’s effect on journalism are of particular interest.

The steady decline in training and mentorship opportunities in a resource-starved industry means that journalism programs are needed now more than ever, according to Mochkofsky.  “For a long time, there was this debate inside the industry around whether journalism school was even necessary,” she said. “If that conversation was relevant in the past, I don’t think it is any longer because of the state of the industry.”

These factors, in combination with a decline in journalism salaries, further underscore the importance of removing additional industry barriers such as student debt, said Mochfosky. “This is an essential job, and we need people to continue to invest in a journalism career.”

Craig Newmark Is Donating $10M to Help CUNY’s Journalism School Become Tuition-Free