Statement on Funding for CUNY in the Executive Budget

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Statement on Funding for CUNY in the Executive Budget

Dr. Barbara Bowen, President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY

January 17, 2012

The City University of New York is the university of the 99%. CUNY students, faculty and staff have operated in austerity conditions for too long.

A preliminary examination of the Governor’s proposed budget for CUNY suggests that it comes close to the amount CUNY has requested for CUNY senior colleges. If that proves true, the PSC will be heartened to see that the Governor has begun to stabilize funding for CUNY, the State’s greatest source of opportunity for low-income students, immigrants and students of color. That critical first step, however, does not reverse the damage done by the last three years of austerity budgets, which cut $300 million from CUNY.

The Governor’s proposed budget also relies too heavily on increased student tuition. Any serious plan to create jobs and spur the economy must reinvest public dollars in CUNY—not demand a disproportionate share of funding from some of the state’s lowest-income families. In the absence of comprehensive tax reform, CUNY students are in effect helping to finance the continuation of tax loopholes that benefit corporations, hedge fund managers and real estate tycoons. We join 99% New York in calling for progressive tax reform and closing of corporate loopholes.

While the Governor’s proposal appears to take important steps forward for CUNY, it maintains the current reduced level of base operating aid for community colleges. CUNY’s over-crowded, under-resourced community colleges desperately need new investment. The PSC looks forward to working with the Legislature, which has responded powerfully to CUNY’s needs in the past, to provide the resources these colleges need, especially in view of their role in economic development.

We also call on the Legislature to reject categorically the Governor’s call for a new, poorer pension tier. Such a change, if enacted, would do little to address current revenue shortfalls and would sabotage CUNY’s efforts to attract top-quality faculty by reducing pension benefits for new faculty.

The Governor’s proposal for CUNY gives us a place to begin important discussions in Albany about the investment needed if CUNY is to flourish—starting with funds to hire additional full-time faculty and to replenish the community colleges. No two investments would do more to improve the future of 100% of the people of New York.