PSC Statement On the Executive Budget for CUNY, FY2019
Barbara Bowen, President
January 16, 2018
Thanks in part to the promise of the Excelsior Scholarship, applications to The City University of New York (CUNY) were up 11% and CUNY enrolled its largest-ever freshman class in Fall 2017. The increase in students seeking a college degree at CUNY is cause for celebration—but only if the University is funded at a level that enables these students to succeed. Our legislators must improve on the Governor’s Executive Budget by reversing the historic underfunding of CUNY and adding new funding to support the increased enrollment.
The increase in student enrollment exacerbates the longstanding problem of New York State underfunding of CUNY. The underfunding is most visible in CUNY’s crumbling buildings and classrooms. Less visible but equally damaging is the impact on students of inadequate investment in the courses and support they need in order to graduate on time. An increase in enrollment, especially through the Excelsior Scholarship, should be accompanied by an increase in funding. The Excelsior Scholarship makes the need for new resources more critical because recipients must have access to courses in sequence and must receive the advising necessary to stay on pace for graduation.
Now more than ever, CUNY urgently needs new full-time faculty, advisors and counselors to serve its growing student body. The University is 4,000 full-time faculty positions short. When measured per student, State investment in CUNY has fallen since 2008. Unlike many state-funded entities, CUNY has not returned to pre-2008 levels of funding. The decline translates into fewer of the classes needed to graduate, fewer of the counselors and advisors essential to supporting student progress, and fewer full-time faculty who can guide and enrich the curriculum for students. Instead, the University relies on 12,000 part-time faculty, who are shamefully underpaid and often do not have the time to provide students with the individual support and mentoring they need.
Investment in students’ access to college is important, but it will be undermined until New York State provides the funds to pay adjunct faculty a fair salary and restore full-time faculty positions.
The members of the PSC are disappointed that the proposed Executive Budget does not invest sufficiently in CUNY. It misses the opportunity to invest in the faculty and student support services needed to ensure quality education and improve rates of on-time graduation at CUNY.
The PSC looks forward to working with the Executive and the Legislature to reach an enacted budget that breaks the pattern of underfunding of CUNY. Especially in a period of budget contraction, no investment is more important than investment in higher education. The bottom line is that CUNY’s mostly low-income and minority students need to see that their education matters to Albany lawmakers.