Fight for Full Funding for CUNY

Updated: January 30, 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.


Urges Legislature to Invest in 1,000 New Professors and Increase in Adjunct Pay

Testifying at a budget hearing in Albany Tuesday, January 24, President Barbara Bowen urged the State Legislature to end years of shrinking investments in CUNY and its 500,000 students by setting the University on a path to full funding, starting with $300 million this year. Bowen called for several key investments for the coming fiscal year, including:

  • 1,000 new full-time faculty positions-a start on replacing the 4,000 faculty positions lost as CUNY funding has shrunk
  • Progress toward $7,000 per course as the average pay for CUNY adjuncts
  • $35 million to match CUNY's requested investment from New York City to allow professors more time for individual work with students and support for improved graduation rates

"CUNY remains radically, disastrously underfunded. The University has endured a steady decline in State funding that threatens the quality of education. But solving that problem is within New York's reach. The PSC calls on you to embark on a four-year plan to reach full funding of CUNY. Higher education has never been as prominent a national issue as it is this year; this is the year for New York to turn the pattern of underfunding around. Start by making a $300 million investment in CUNY quality," Bowen testified.

In addition to the new investments, the PSC called for all mandatory cost increases to be covered and for restoration of funds to opportunity programs. Read PSC's testimony on the Executive Budget.

Bowen said the broad support for the idea of "free tuition" offers lawmakers a chance to invest in free and quality public higher education. The Excelsior Scholarship, proposed in the Governor's Executive Budget, would cover the difference between a student's financial aid and the full cost of SUNY or CUNY tuition for families with annual incomes up to $125,000. Only full-time students on pace to graduate in four years (two at a community college) would be eligible.

"The Governor and the Legislature can make the promise of college real for New Yorkers by moving toward full funding of the state's public universities, both through support of free or affordable tuition and through investment in academic quality," Bowen said.

The most comprehensive study to date of college students' economic mobility shows that CUNY leads the nation in moving students out of poverty and into the middle class and beyond. But State disinvestment has put CUNY's extraordinary work at risk. From 2008 to 2015, per-student funding from the State fell 17% for CUNY's senior colleges, when adjusted for inflation.

To make CUNY free for all students and provide the high-contact teaching and advisement that has tripled graduation rates in CUNY's celebrated Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) would cost $2 billion. "We know what works," Bowen said. "Now New York needs the political will to do it."

CUNY's lack of adequate per-student State funding has led to a shortage of full-time faculty, high teaching loads and reliance on grossly underpaid adjunct faculty. CUNY-wide, only 47% of undergraduate instruction was provided by full-time faculty last year. Bowen urged lawmakers to allocate $80 million to hire 1,000 new full-time faculty, an investment that would bring CUNY a quarter of the way to an academically appropriate full-time instruction rate of 70%.

Adjunct faculty, who do more than half of the teaching at CUNY, earn an average $3,500 per course. Adjuncts' low pay, on-demand employment, poor working conditions and multi-campus work schedules undermine their best teaching efforts.

"Make this the year in which you claim the national stage as leaders on higher education," said Bowen. "Take the first steps toward full funding of CUNY and full support of CUNY students."

PSC Officers Testify About the NYS Budget

Barbara Bowen calls for full funding of CUNY

PSC officers were in Albany Tuesday, January 24 to testify before a joint hearing of the State Senate and Assembly finance committees on the Executive Budget for higher education. President Bowen, in her testimony, described a need for a multi-year phase-in of full funding for CUNY. She called for more progressive taxation in New York State to support investment in public higher education, and she offered a critique of Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarships. Of the proposed scholarship program, she said:

“Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship proposal elevates the idea of free college tuition, reaffirms the value of CUNY and SUNY, and suggests that free public college is a realistic goal. That in itself is a breakthrough. The plan is presented as a promise to the people of New York that the state is committed to increasing economic mobility and sustaining the middle class. But the promise must be real. The Legislature can make it real by seizing the opportunity created by the proposal and making a commitment to restore full funding to CUNY and SUNY.” Download the union’s budget testimony.

President Bowen made a similar argument in this letter, which ran in the New York Times the day of the hearing.

CUNY’s analysis of the Executive Budget is posted here.