Fight for Full Funding for CUNY

Updated: January 18, 2017
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The union will be working with our statewide NYSUT affiliates and coalition partners on a series of concentrated advocacy days: Wednesday, March 1 - Thursday, March 2 and Monday, March 6- Tuesday, March 7. We need you to call on our state lawmakers to give CUNY the resources it needs. Sign up here.

Statement on Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget

Governor Cuomo's proposed Excelsior Scholarship breaks new ground conceptually and elevates the idea that public college should be free. It has the potential to lift barriers to college attendance and change the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. But it is unclear how the proposed $163 million is adequate to cover the cost.

Free college tuition is only half of the solution. A progressive vision for New York's middle class should include not just a college education, but a high-quality college education. Important as investment in college affordability is, it does not substitute for desperately needed investment in basic operating funds. We are disappointed that the proposed Executive Budget appears to decrease public investment in CUNY's senior colleges and appears to propose the sale of CUNY assets to “partially offset State support for CUNY.” We await the details of the plan.

More than a half-million New Yorkers, mainly low- and middle-income New Yorkers, depend on CUNY for a route to a secure future and good life. Yet CUNY has suffered from years of underfunding, including under Governor Cuomo, which has led to a decline in per-student support.

Policymakers must seize the opportunity created by the Governor's Excelsior Scholarship proposal and offer a bold plan to restore full funding to CUNY.

We support the Governor's call to pass the DREAM Act this year. Access to State financial aid for undocumented students, who are among the hardest-working and courageous at CUNY, should be part of any college tuition support proposal.

Governor Cuomo Proposes Excelsior Scholarship

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a proposal to provide free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools for students with annual family incomes below $125,000. He made the announcement January 3 alongside Senator Bernie Sanders at LaGuardia Community College. Here is the PoliticoNY coverage and here is the news release and video from the Governor’s Office. President Bowen was at the event with members of the LaGuardia Community College PSC chapter. The union has released this statement to the press calling the proposal “a conceptual breakthrough” and arguing for an “equally visionary agenda for public higher education investment.” PSC Secretary Nivedita Majumdar explained the PSC’s position on WBAI (Jan. 4 Morning Show, time stamp 1:47:45). Editorials in the Daily News and the New York Times made similar points about the need for investment. Among early responses to the proposal (the Governor has released only a few details) are some that argue it leaves out too many students and doesn’t help the poorest students who already receive financial aid but still struggle.

Statement on Governor Cuomo’s Proposal for Free Tuition at CUNY and SUNY
Barbara Bowen, President, Professional Staff Congress

Governor Cuomo’s proposal to offer free tuition to CUNY and SUNY students is a conceptual and political breakthrough: it names free tuition at public colleges as the new standard to which states should aspire. The proposal for Excelsior Scholarships has the potential to improve the lives of millions of New Yorkers. At a moment when college costs are rising, student debt is out of control and Americans are wary of what the future holds, New York State can re-set the national agenda for college education by enacting a fully funded investment in free public college education for low- and middle-income students. Everyone in the state will benefit if college education is in reach for all.

Now is the moment to make a similarly bold commitment to providing the resources CUNY and SUNY need to fulfill the Governor’s promise to students. To enable students to graduate within two or four years, CUNY will need to be able to offer essential courses, support services and academic resources. We urge the governor to take this opportunity to articulate an equally visionary agenda for public higher education investment.

The PSC looks forward to learning the details of the proposed Excelsior Scholarship and will work with the Governor’s Office and the Legislature to support it. We also look forward to an Executive Budget that includes funding not only for free tuition but for increased investment in public higher education. New York could ensure national leadership on higher education by coupling the proposal for Excelsior Scholarships with a commitment to fully funded public universities.

As a union committed to economic and racial justice, the PSC echoes Senator Bernie Sanders’ support for the proposal and his praise for the promise of publicly funded free, high-quality college education. We will look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to make that promise a reality.

Start New York’s 2017 Agenda with Investment in CUNY, Nov 30

City & State magazine published an op-ed written by PSC pres. Barbara Bowen on its opinions page, the Daily Slant. Here’s an excerpt:
“It feels as if months have passed since Donald Trump was elected president. Perhaps that’s because so many New Yorkers now live in palpable fear.

For thousands of students at the City University of New York, where 40 percent of undergraduates are immigrants and several thousand are undocumented, the fear is especially real. Three-quarters of CUNY undergraduates are people of color, more than half are women, many are Muslim, many are Jewish and there are large and active organizations of LGBTQ students and students with disabilities. Students in many of these groups have been directly targeted by President-elect Trump’s rhetoric and policy proposals. All are vulnerable in a regime in which violent white nationalism is normalized as policy.

Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have taken strong stands against the torrent of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia since the election. …Those are vitally important messages, and both the governor and mayor have begun to announce policy initiatives to reinforce their commitment to New Yorkers at risk. But few initiatives would have as profound an impact as a pledge to restore full funding to the university on which the city’s most vulnerable communities rely...” Read the full op-ed.

CUNY's 2017-2018 Budget Request, Oct 26

The University Budget Request for FY 2017-2018 and four-year financial plan is posted here. In it CUNY requests a $221.4 million increase in total funding for senior colleges and community colleges in 2017-2018. $34 million of the new funding would come from tuition hikes; $65.5 million would come in the form of new State Aid and $121.7 million would be new City Support. Tuition hikes of $250 per year for the next four years are proposed for the senior colleges. Four years of $100 per year hikes are proposed for the community colleges.

The budget request calls for a significant increase in city funding for the CUNY senior colleges. Four years of efficiency savings totaling $75 million are predicted as well. State Base Aid to community colleges would be increased by $250 per full-time equivalent student under the plan. Investments in new full-time faculty, online education, and ASAP are proposed, along with extra funding for programs that promote student success and funding to allow faculty more time for mentoring, student and academic advisement, office hours, and research.

CUNY’s five-year Capital Budget request is broken down by campus here. For 2017-2018, the University identifies $1.3 billion in needed investments (bonded and hard-dollar) in expansion, upgrade, repair and maintenance of CUNY’s physical plant.

CUNY Board of Trustees Hearing, Oct 19

The CUNY Board of Trustees heard testimony about CUNY’s budget request at a public hearing Wednesday, October 19 at the Baruch College Vertical Campus (55 Lexington Avenue). President Bowen testified on behalf of the PSC. She commended the Board for taking some steps to call for increases in public funding for CUNY. But the steps “are important, but they are not enough,” she said. In her testimony, president Bowne urged the CUNY administration to demand significant public investment and eschew tuition hikes. The PSC, she testified, will be urging the City and State to make transformative investments in CUNY. Dozens of CUNY students, faculty and staff also testified. Many of them opposed CUNY’s planned tuition hikes and shared stories of learning and teaching under austerity conditions. Audio of the hearing is posted here. President Bowen speaks at the 1:10:32 time stamp.