CUNY Allies to Mayor and Governor: Stand Up For People of Color, Immigrants By Fully Funding CUNY

Updated: December 7, 2016
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CUNY Rising White Paper Praises What Works At CUNY, Calls for $2B in Public Funding to End Chronic Disinvestment

New York—The CUNY Rising Alliance and supporters called on Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo today to uphold their post-election promises to protect at-risk New Yorkers by committing to phase in a $2 billion plan to fund free, high-quality education for all City University of New York students.

CUNY undergraduates are 40% immigrants and 77% people of color. CUNY serves a half-million mostly low-income New Yorkers and most of New York’s immigrant students. Many CUNY students feel threatened by the racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric of the presidential election and the rise in hate crimes in its aftermath. Yet the university they depend on for a chance at the American Dream is too expensive for many and vastly underfunded.

About 8,000 students attend tuition-free as part of CUNY’s nationally renowned and well-funded Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative. That number will grow to 25,000 by 2018 thanks to promised investments from the City, but still fewer than 10% of matriculated CUNY students will benefit. ASAP students are more likely to succeed at CUNY and graduate faster than other CUNY students because they receive high-contact teaching and advisement and robust supports that CUNY cannot afford to offer to most students.

The white paper released today by CUNY Rising explains the success of ASAP and CUNY’s other targeted student success programs. It also details the disinvestment that imperils CUNY’s mission to educate “the children of the whole people” of New York. From 2008 – 2015 per-student funding from the State fell 17% at CUNY senior colleges and 5% at community colleges, when adjusted for inflation. Per-student City funding for the community colleges fell 13% over the same period, when adjusted for inflation.

CUNY Rising presents a plan to make ASAP-level supports available to all CUNY students. The groups propose approaching “free” from two directions. From one side, financial aid would be expanded to help more low-income and working families. From the other side, increases in City and State support would fund first a tuition freeze and then reductions in the sticker price of tuition. Thousands of full-time faculty and academic advisors would be hired; adjunct faculty would see their pay increased to $7,000 per course; and capital funding would be increased to repair, upgrade and expand CUNY’s aging and over-used facilities.

Representatives of CUNY Rising member groups and other CUNY allies spoke out in support of fully funding CUNY:

“Hispanic Federation is proud to partner with the CUNY Rising Alliance to support the proposed CUNY Student Bill of Rights. As the state’s biggest education and economic advancement vehicle for over 2 million Latinos, it is paramount that we all strive to further improve the quality and accessibility of a public higher education. We urge state and city government leaders to rethink their budget priorities and work toward ensuring many more aspiring students, faculty and staff can benefit from what CUNY is and can become,” stated Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation.

"A college degree is a lifeline for young people who are eager to enter the work force. The City University of New York has been a critical institution for low income students to be able to get a top education, but rising costs at CUNY and the lack of financial aid continues to put students in vulnerable positions. For thousands of students at CUNY, where 40 percent of undergraduates are immigrants and several thousand are undocumented, access to financial aid is essential to allowing them to complete their education. At a time of great uncertainty for immigrant communities, we call on the State to increase funding for higher education and close the TAP gap," said Carlene Pinto, Immigration Campaign Manager at New York Immigration Coalition.

"CUNY serves as one of the most prominent vehicles for social mobility in our city. It is an institution that proudly serves our working-class and immigrant communities in an effort to grant them access to the middle class. As the new State Senator for the 31st Senate District, I promise to fervently advocate to increase funding for our great CUNY system, pass the Dream Act, and curb tuition increases, especially for our low-income students," said NYS Senator-Elect Marisol Alcantara.

“Higher education should be an opportunity for all those who wish to pursue it. For half a million young people throughout New York City, CUNY is the resource that provides a quality higher education that they might not otherwise be able to afford or access. In order to continue providing this invaluable opportunity for generations to come, New York City and State must ensure CUNY has the resources it desperately needs,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.

“It is time to pass a Students Bill of Rights—to ensure access to a free, high-quality public higher education, the surest path to economic opportunity, financial security, and intellectual and personal growth. There are over 500,000 students for whom that path starts at CUNY, and it should not end with them saddled in debt,” said Assembly Member Latrice Walker.

“Free, high-quality CUNY education should be the right of every New Yorker. We can have the fully funded public university our city needs, if we fight for it, if we're willing to demand much more of Albany and City Hall—and if we’re willing to hold politicians who fail us accountable,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change.

"Our lawmakers must stand on the right side of history this legislative session by committing more public dollars to public higher education. For many students, filling budget shortfalls with tuition dollars was too great a burden. The Student Bill of Rights outlines the ways our Legislature and Governor must prioritize public higher education by fully funding CUNY," said Desiree Greenidge, BMCC student and member of NYPIRG's Board of Directors.

“For the faith community, providing for the full education of upcoming generations represents a sacred trust, a covenant and a religious obligation. The full funding and resourcing of this public education, at all levels, is a moral choice and a social compact with the future. For this reason we fully endorse the Student Bill of Rights and will help work towards its implementation in New York,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition.

"After years of state divestment, public higher education in New York is struggling. CUNY Rising has an alternative vision: One that says no student should be shut out of college because they can’t afford it, or leave with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. We’re ready to fight side by side with students, faculty and the CUNY community to make it a reality, "said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York.

“New York State has a responsibility to ensure that CUNY remains accessible to the majority of working-class communities of color that it serves. This means an increase in funding to keep CUNY affordable and high quality. To deny CUNY adequate funding is to deny entire communities their opportunity to social and economic mobility through a high quality college degree,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education

"In a time when a college degree is increasingly necessary for economic advancement, and as wages for young adults remain stagnant despite a recovering economy, ensuring that tomorrow's workforce has access to an affordable, high-quality public higher education is critical now more than ever. That's why we are calling on state lawmakers to increase funding for higher education and close the TAP gap, a deficit in financial aid for low-income students of more than $1,000 that was previously covered for many. Without this funding, too many students will be denied the opportunity to build skills and contribute to our advancing workforce," said Kevin Stump, Northeast Director of Young Invincibles.

“Since its earliest days, CUNY has served as a pathway to upward mobility for New Yorkers from all backgrounds. We call on Albany to maintain CUNY’s quality and affordability, so that it may continue its noble mission,” said Henry Garrido, DC 37 Executive Director.

“There is no better way to demonstrate that New York City and State will stand by newly vulnerable populations than by setting CUNY on a path to full funding. Now more than ever, a half-million New Yorkers—thousands and thousands of them new immigrants and people of color—will depend on CUNY as their one realistic chance for a safe, stable and productive life. That chance will be lost if CUNY continues to operate on a grossly inadequate budget. The CUNY faculty and staff stand with the communities that rely on CUNY and with the students we are privileged to teach, united in a demand to make this the moment to begin full funding of CUNY,” said Dr. Barbara Bowen, President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY.

About CUNY Rising
CUNY Rising is a growing alliance of 30+ community groups, non-profits, unions, student advocates and faith-based organizations that serve, mobilize and minister to millions of New Yorkers. Living in a city with record income inequality and profound, systemic racial disparities in education, our constituencies depend on a quality CUNY education for a chance at the American Dream. We’re campaigning to make certain that critically needed, increased investment in CUNY is on the agenda for State and City budget talks. Click here for a list of member organizations.

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