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New York University & Columbia University would lose tax exempt status under newly introduced bill

NYU & Columbia would lose tax exempt status under newly introduced bill
NYU & Columbia would lose tax exempt status under newly introduced bill 02:23

NEW YORK -- New York University and Columbia University are in danger of losing their tax exempt status, which translates to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Columbia and NYU are known for many things -- excellent education, beautiful campuses, and not paying property taxes. According to the state constitution, they don't have to. But that could soon change.

"We're standing here speaking about two institutions whose combined endowments are valued at north of $20 billion," Queens Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani said.

A bill being introduced by Mamdani would repeal the tax exempt status of private universities that received property tax exemptions of $100 million or more during the prior year. Columbia and NYU fall into that category; together, they saved $327 million in tax breaks.

The tax revenue would go to fund CUNY schools, which serve 225,000 local students and are facing 3% budget cuts.

Both institutions have spoken out against the bill.

NYU spokesman John Beckman tells CBS New York, "NYU has a strong robust record of commitment to conducting programs that are vital to the well-being of New York City. If tax exempt status were to change, we would be forced to rethink much of the way we operate."

We were surprised to find students we spoke with unanimously supported the bill.

"I don't think Columbia is in a position to pass these costs onto anyone else. I think they should just own up and pay their fair share in property taxes," Columbia senior Arpita Kanrar said.

"I think that it's Columbia's responsibility as a part of New York, someone that benefits greatly from its location and has a stake in New York City, that it's the responsibility to pay their fair share ... and make sure that working class New Yorkers are able to have a high-quality education," Columbia junior Hannah Puelle said.

Because tax exemptions are written into the state constitution, the bill faces an uphill battle; it must pass both houses of the state legislature and be approved by voters before becoming law. Columbia and NYU plan to fight it every step of the way.

Columbia University did not respond to our request for comment.

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