Impact on City Coffers as Private Colleges Expand

Private colleges in New York City currently own approximately 25 million square feet of land, or close to 600 acres citywide. Although small in comparison to the 200,000 acres that make up New York City, the footprint of property owned by the city’s private colleges is expanding. It has been estimated that the “city foregoes about $4 billion a year in revenue” as a result, with the number of college tax-exempt properties jumping 8% from 1,140 to 1,234 properties in 2023 versus 2014 while lost tax revenue from these properties rising more steeply by 81% from $435 million to $788 million in the same period. Despite economic benefits of having “world-known colleges in the city’s backyard,” plus their contribution “in terms of student spending, job creation, hospital services, intellectual property and cultural assets” — which many of the top colleges say justifies the tax-free status as a nonprofit they benefit, it has been questioned by some that believe the city’s overall property tax system is” massively socially inequitable,” yet efforts to reform the system remain in limbo.