Council Members, Students & Union Rally against Mayor de Blasio’s Planned Cuts to CUNY

Updated: May 21, 2021
Top slideshow: 

Demand Full Restoration of all Council Initiatives for CUNY and Increased Funding for Mental Health Counselors and Academic Advisors

New York, NY- Groups representing tens of thousands City University of New York faculty and staff, students, and community members rallied against proposed cuts to City funding for CUNY today ahead of the City Council’s Higher Education budget hearing. Council Members Ayala, Gibson, Lander, Levine, Powers, Reynoso, and Rosenthal joined the rally, which was organized by the CUNY Rising Alliance, New York Public Interest Research Group, the Professional Staff Congress, University Student Senate and Young Invincibles.

“The cuts to CUNY in the Mayor’s Executive Budget are inexplicable. Despite the influx of federal stimulus funds, the Executive Budget repeats almost all the cuts to CUNY the Mayor proposed back in January, when the City’s budget picture was much bleaker than it is now. A budget that describes itself as a ‘radical investment in working families’ should include massive new investment in CUNY--not devastating cuts. CUNY should be at the center of any plan to restore and reimagine New York. The 30,000 members of our union call on the Mayor and the City Council to reverse the $67 million in cuts to CUNY and add the support CUNY needs to weather the pandemic and be part of our city’s renewal. CUNY is a lifeline for New York’s working class and its communities of color. Any budget that fails to invest in CUNY turns its back on these New Yorkers,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress.

The Mayor’s $98.6B budget would cut City funding to CUNY community colleges by $67 million, eliminating funding needed to fill empty staff lines when students are in desperate need of more mental health counseling and advisement. It cuts funding for tutoring and service corps and leaves out funding for Council-funded initiatives for remediation services and child care and food insecurity programs. (The Executive Budget documents show a $77 million cut to CUNY, but CUNY Chancellor Matos Rodríguez and representatives of the Mayor have said there’s an agreement to restore $10 million in ASAP funding.)

“As an ASAP student, I am really concerned about the cuts to the program in the Mayor's budget. From providing great advisement, to help with MetroCards, textbooks, and tuition assistance, ASAP has been a critical part of my success at QCC. All students should have access to this level of support in order to achieve the dreams they want for themselves and their families. We’re calling on the New York City Council to help deliver on the promise of a New Deal for CUNY in NYC by ensuring that the final budget funds ASAP fully, restores all cuts, and increases funding for CUNY by $60 million,” said Nathan Lloyd, NYPIRG member and CUNY ASAP student at Queensborough Community College.

The Council members and groups also called on the City Council and the Mayor to allocate $40 million to offset community college tuition losses caused by the temporary decline in enrollment caused by the pandemic.

Finally, the groups urged the City to invest $20.4 million in hiring additional mental health counselors and academic advisors. The International Accreditation of Counseling Services recommends a ratio of one counselor per every 1,000 students. CUNY now averages one mental health counselor to 2,595 students. The academic advisor-to-student ratios at CUNY are as high as one to 1,500 at some CUNY colleges.

Improved mental health counseling and advisement are needs addressed in the New Deal for CUNY, state legislation that would mandate minimum staff-to-student ratios at CUNY while raising pay for adjunct faculty and enacting free tuition. The New Deal is a state bill, but CUNY is funded by both the City and the State, so investments from the City will need to be part of its full enactment.

“CUNY students are some of the most vulnerable members of the working class. When Mayor Bill de Blasio proposes significant cuts to CUNY, he is proposing to leave behind the most vulnerable members of the working class in New York. We need to restore the cuts proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio for this year and last year's budget, provide an additional $40 million to hold community college budgets harmless from recent enrollment dips and freezes tuition at community colleges, and provide $20.4 million in new investment to help the University begin to meet the minimum ratios of mental health counselors, academic advisors and full-time faculty to students that are required in the New Deal for CUNY,” said Remysell Salas, CUNY Rising Alliance Campaign Director.

Seven NYC Council members spoke up for CUNY at the rally.

“CUNY is central to New York City's post-COVID economic recovery. It is unconscionable to cut this vital engine of stability, mobility, and economic growth at such a pivotal moment. We absolutely must restore the $67 million in proposed cuts to CUNY's operating budget, but we must do more than that. We need to add an additional $20 million to begin a truly New Deal for CUNY, to enhance the quality of services as working New Yorkers struggle to emerge from pandemic conditions and improve their lives. A New Deal for CUNY means more full-time faculty and hence smaller class sizes and more course offerings. It also means more academic advisors and mental health counselors. The national standard is a ratio of one mental health counselor for every 1,000 students. CUNY reports a ratio of 1:2,595, with one campus as high as 1:6,009. This cannot be. It is bad for students and bad for the University, opening this vital city institution to untold liability. CUNY students are New York's recovery. Let's get CUNY the money it needs, and CUNY students the services they deserve,” said Council Member Diana Ayala.

“We can not have an equitable recovery from COVID-19 with an Executive Budget that cuts critical funding for CUNY that would disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income New Yorkers. Education is a gateway to success for many New Yorkers but the proposed cuts to CUNY in the Executive Budget would prevent those communities hardest hit by the pandemic from accessing vital resources to becoming academically successful. I join with my colleagues and the tens of thousands CUNY faculty, staff, and advocates in calling on the administration to support a New Deal for CUNY that would ensure students have the academic advisors, mental health counselors, and other resources available to invest not only financially in our students, but also in their health and well-being,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson.

“The Mayor has a $200 million increase to the NYPD in his budget, yet proposed cuts to CUNY. This is appalling because CUNY is the future of NYC, nothing is more important than educating our young people,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

“I believe fully that CUNY is the key to New York’s post-pandemic economy and is the driver of good public health policy. We need to double down on funding public higher education,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

"As a proud CUNY alum, I know how vital it is to New York City—for so many, CUNY is the path to an affordable, high quality education. I have called on our city to avoid cuts to CUNY’s budget. In our recovery, it’s critical we recognize that funding CUNY is an essential investment in our city’s future. I’m proud to stand with PSC/CUNY in this fight," said Council Member Keith Powers.

"There is no greater driver of economic mobility in the City of New York than CUNY. For generations of New Yorkers, CUNY has provided access to higher education and a path to the middle class. However, this legacy is increasingly threatened due to a lack of funding. It is time for Mayor de Blasio to implement a New Deal for CUNY to ensure these world-class institutions can continue to provide a path to success for the next generation of New Yorkers. I look forward to collaborating with PSC-CUNY and my colleagues in the Council to fully-fund CUNY and secure the future for this essential part of NYC's education system," said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

"I am proud to stand with the PSC in calling for one-time additional City support for CUNY, an integral part of New York. CUNY has experienced temporary, but serious, losses of tuition income and needs our assistance as we recover from this devastating pandemic. At the same time, we need to see a full restoration of funding for childcare on CUNY campuses. Childcare is absolutely essential to an equitable recovery and ensuring that every student can return to school," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.