On December 11, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have provided crucial funding to all of the colleges that make up the City University of New York. (The veto took place a day after the print edition of Clarion went to press.)
Both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly supported the bi-partisan “maintenance of effort” (MOE) bill, which would have ensured that tuition hikes go to improve CUNY and SUNY, rather than to offset underfunding by the state. Cuomo has yet to restore CUNY funding to pre-Recession levels, despite the resurgence in the state’s economy. Under his administration, per-student investment in CUNY has remained essentially flat. Since 2008, it is down 14 percent.
BMCC students Khadijah Warner (right) and Sekou Sacko are among the more than 40,000 CUNY and SUNY students who signed postcards urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the “maintenance of effort” bill. On November 20, a coalition of groups, including the Professional Staff Congress, CUNY University Student Senate and the New York Public Interest Research Group delivered the postcards to the governor’s office at the state capitol in Albany.
After the veto of the MOE bill, the PSC announced a social media ad campaign to press Cuomo “to change course and stop starving CUNY of resources.” The campaign will feature ads on Facebook and Twitter, an online petition and other tactics aimed at mobilizing the communities that depend on CUNY.
“With this veto, Governor Cuomo signals his refusal to invest in the education CUNY students need,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “Cuomo’s decision to veto the bill will damage the quality of education CUNY can offer and reduce students’ access to the top-quality faculty and staff they deserve. If the aim of the veto was to hurt New York’s low- and middle-income communities, that aim has been achieved. CUNY is many New Yorkers’ best opportunity to overcome the deep racialized gaps in opportunity and income that divide our city. New Yorkers who count on CUNY need to know that the governor has made the political calculation not to invest in their children’s college education and in the future of their communities.”
Five years of tuition hikes, which the governor argued would “[make] it possible for public university systems to add faculty, reduce class size, expand program offerings, and improve academic performance” have instead gone to fill holes left in CUNY’s operating budgets by the State’s failure to keep its investment apace with increases in operating costs. The hole this year: $51 million. Another tuition hike is proposed for CUNY’s four-year colleges this year.
The MOE bill would have protected students’ tuition dollars and the quality of their education by requiring the state to fund predictable increases to CUNY/SUNY operating costs, such as inflationary rises in utilities, rent and salaries. Without adequate state funding, CUNY colleges have already begun to cut programs and student services, and the University has been unable to resolve its long-expired collective bargaining agreement. For six years, CUNY faculty and staff have worked without a raise, and today are among the lowest-paid faculty in the New York City area — making it hard for CUNY to attract and retain talented faculty and staff.