Statement on Enacted NYS Budget and Excelsior Scholarship
Dr. Barbara Bowen, President
The Excelsior Scholarship was signed into law today by Governor Cuomo. The members of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY welcome any measure that makes college more affordable and commend the governor on focusing national attention on the need for college tuition support. But without increased public investment in CUNY, Excelsior cannot achieve its full potential. Excelsior requires timely progress to graduation, but the enacted State budget for FY18 failed to provide the resources necessary to enable students to graduate on time. Nearly half of current CUNY undergraduates report not being able to take a course they need for their major. Without adequate State funding, CUNY cannot support the smaller classes, expanded faculty mentorship, improved advisement, and increased support services that are proven to improve graduation rates.
State funding for CUNY senior colleges remains essentially flat in the enacted budget. The vast majority of new funds for CUNY will come from annual tuition increases paid by the students who do not qualify for the terms of Excelsior Scholarship. The tuition hikes approved for the next four years come only with a promise not to cut State funding; there is no commitment to cover rising operating costs.
We thank CUNY’s champions in Albany for pressing hard for restorations and improvements in the final budget. We are grateful for the inclusion of funds for past collective bargaining increases for which a commitment was made last year. And we acknowledge the Legislature for fully funding CUNY’s opportunity programs and the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative, while also improving the State’s per-student investment in community colleges. But State funding per student at CUNY still lags behind pre-Recession levels, when adjusted for inflation. In a year in which the Governor rightly emphasized the importance of public higher education, it doesn’t make sense to deny CUNY the funding it needs to ensure student success.
Finally, the PSC is disappointed that student “Dreamers,” undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. as children and graduated from high school in New York, were failed once again by Albany. New York State hurts its own future by denying these brave and motivated students the same chance other students have for an affordable college degree. At a time when racism and anti-immigrant bigotry are being enacted as federal policy, New York must do better.
New Radio Ad Urges Increased State Investment in CUNY
The PSC’s State budget ad campaign continues this week with a new radio ad arguing that adding students without adding resources could undermine student success. “Albany has to get this right,” the ad says. Listen and retweet it on Twitter. Like and share it on Facebook. You can tag your legislators if you’re sharing the ad on social media.
PSC TV Ad Urges New State Investment in CUNY
The PSC is pressing Albany lawmakers to make increased funding for CUNY part of any affordability initiative included in the final budget. A new video airing on TV and social media argues that affordability won’t be meaningful without new investment in the classroom. Students like Fatime Uruci of John Jay College are making the most of their CUNY opportunity. But CUNY needs 4,000 more full-time faculty and funding to support its 12,000 adjunct faculty. This is the year to invest more in CUNY classrooms so students like Fatime can realize their dreams.
Progress in Albany, But More Investment is Needed
The State Senate and Assembly have both put forward their one-house budget resolutions, which set the table for the remaining budget negotiations in Albany. President Bowen released the following statement:
Statement on the New York State Senate and Assembly One-House Budget Resolutions
The members of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY welcome the growing discussion in Albany of college affordability. Now it is time for that discussion to include a serious commitment to college investment. New York State public funding for the City University of New York, when adjusted for inflation and enrollment growth, has still not returned to 2008 levels. To increase access to CUNY while continuing to starve the University of funds is short-sighted. Without additional operating support, CUNY students will not have access to the high-quality education on which the affordability programs are premised.
We commend the New York State Senate and Assembly for the funding restorations included in both one-house budgets, particularly on mandatory cost increases. Both the Senate and the Assembly responded to the voices of PSC members and included in their one-house budgets maintenance of effort language to fully cover CUNY’s mandatory cost increases, including collective bargaining increases. It is essential that the enacted budget fully fund the cost of the University’s basic contractual commitments to its employees.
Now we call on the Legislature and the Executive to increase CUNY operating aid in the enacted budget so that students seeking a better life with a CUNY degree will have the resources they need.
The New York State Senate and Assembly have put forward their own proposals to increase college affordability through enhancements to the state Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) or a combination of TAP improvements and an expansion of Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship. We are grateful that both the Senate and the Assembly expand TAP eligibility to part-time students, and that the Assembly gradually increases the maximum TAP award to cover the full cost of CUNY tuition. With three new proposals for college affordability on the table, Albany has a chance to negotiate a breakthrough budget for CUNY students and families.
Increasing investment in New York’s public universities as part of a college affordability initiative would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of New York families and could set a national policy agenda.
But greater investment is needed. The University struggles to provide the resources needed for high-quality college education even for current students. Increasing access to CUNY without significantly increasing investment would mean that resources are even further strained.
Even without additional students, CUNY operates with a shortage of 4,000 full-time faculty and relies on the underpaid labor of more than 12,000 adjunct faculty, who teach more than half of its courses. Any free tuition or affordability initiative in the enacted state budget must include funds to allow the University to begin to fill the gap in full-time faculty positions, provide additional support for adjuncts, and strengthen the student support services that keep students on pace to graduate.
We commend the Assembly for increasing Base Aid to community colleges by $100 per FTE-student, while the Senate provides only a $50 per-FTE increase and decreases the funding provided in the Executive Budget to community colleges as a result of the Excelsior Scholarship. CUNY community colleges cannot sustain any reduction in funds. Base Aid is still below 2008 levels, when adjusted for inflation, and should be increased by $250 per FTE-student this year.
The Assembly also makes essential restorations to opportunity programs, while the Senate budget would leave opportunity programs without restoration of funds cut in the Executive Budget. Opportunity programs are proven to improve student success, and must be adequately funded in the final budget.
Finally, we applaud the Assembly for joining the Governor in funding the NY DREAM Act, legislation that is more urgent than ever now. This is the year to pass the DREAM Act—as well as the year for New York State to make a difference in the future of its families by funding the public universities they rely on.