Albany, 2/28/18 — More than 500 college students, faculty and staff are in Albany as part of a statewide Higher Education Action Day urging lawmakers to increase state funding for the State University and the City University of New York—SUNY and CUNY. The governor’s Executive Budget holds state spending for SUNY’s and CUNY’s instructional core budgets essentially flat, and increases tuition for students who don’t qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship or other financial aid.
Applications to SUNY and CUNY are rising, in part because the Excelsior Scholarship has expanded financial aid for the some New York students. But the public university systems are vastly under resourced and need more funding this year to assure that enrollment spikes do not further strain resources and undermine students’ success.
Faced with a proposed budget that doesn’t meet their needs, the coalition of student groups and academic unions have come to Albany to argue for greater investment in SUNY and CUNY.
The crowd rallied at the Empire State Plaza’s Hart Theater before dispersing for meetings with more than 100 legislators. Student and faculty speakers said their platform of investments will mean greater prosperity for all of New York.
"Higher education is an investment with guaranteed rewards both for society and individuals. Hundreds of students are here today to say that Albany must reject higher costs for students, fully fund SUNY and CUNY, and protect opportunity programs critical to the success of our most vulnerable students,” said Anthony Viola, NYPIRG Board of Directors Vice-Chairperson and CUNY City College of New York student.
CUNY and SUNY were hit hard during the Great Recession when the state implemented severe spending reductions. Some funding has been restored to higher education, but it remains stuck below 2009 funding levels, when adjusted for inflation and enrollment.
“CUNY has repeatedly proven that it plays a critical role in upward social mobility. New York State public university systems should not and cannot survive on revenue generated from annual tuition increases paid by students. Adequate investment in CUNY and SUNY is not only fiscally prudent, it ensures everyone has access to PUBLIC higher education regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or place of birth. We ask state lawmakers to keep their promise and make higher education affordable and accessible for all,” said John Aderounmu CUNY Trustee, University Student Senate Chairperson and Hunter College student.
“SUNY students are proud to be part of such an important event—which will draw attention to the issues that deeply affect them. We are proud of the partnership the SUNY Student Assembly has developed with other key advocacy organizations in our state,” said Marc Cohen, SUNY Student Assembly president and graduate student at the University at Albany.
Increased investments in SUNY and CUNY would help protect affordability, relieve full-time faculty shortages, improve pay and working conditions for adjunct faculty, and ensure the kind of advisement and robust student services that help students to succeed.
“Every year, UUP goes to bat for SUNY to get more funding for the University, ultimately helping students. That’s why we’ve been involved with Higher Ed Action Day year after year. We will always stand with our students in our quest for an affordable, accessible college education.” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D.
“CUNY changes lives. It leads the nation in enabling economic mobility for its students. But the University is not reaching its full potential as a resource for New York State because of chronic, systemic underfunding. The PSC is proud to be part of this student-faculty-staff-union coalition, calling on the Legislature and the Executive to address the structural inadequacies of CUNY’s budget. Imagine how many more CUNY students would succeed and graduate if their university had the resources it deserves. A commitment to restoring CUNY funding could make that a reality,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, Ph.D.
Community colleges also need greater investment. If state funding had kept pace with inflation since 2008, SUNY and CUNY community colleges would have had $159 million more in this year’s budget. The coalition platform requests $21 million for CUNY community colleges and $40 million for SUNY community colleges.
Passage of the DREAM Act and other financial aid reforms, investments in the state’s teaching hospitals, and restorations for opportunity programs are also part of the coalition platform. The groups also want more funding for infrastructure improvement and critical maintenance for SUNY and CUNY campuses.
After years of disinvestment in SUNY and CUNY, Albany lawmakers have an opportunity to invest in quality, affordable public higher education. The students, faculty and staff of SUNY and CUNY are urging them not to miss their chance to invest in futures.
“The dramatic rise in applications to SUNY and CUNY campuses demonstrates the important role they play in shaping the future of New York students. Yet, if these public higher education institutions are going to continue to thrive, the state must support its campuses with a more robust investment. The state must ensure there are enough faculty and programs to meet the needs of students who attend SUNY and CUNY now, and those who will enroll in the future." said NYSUT President Andrew Pallotta.