This year’s budget made fiscal and political gains for CUNY; it protected students from a tuition increase and community colleges from losses; it broke the barrier on TAP reform that the union has been confronting for years. But in a year that cried out for bold investment in public higher education and an end to racist austerity for the Black and brown communities CUNY serves, Albany failed to deliver a transformative CUNY budget.
The legislative session is not over! We made big strides this spring, and the New Deal for CUNY focused the public conversation about CUNY in a new way. The campaign to get the ND4C passed will continue and grow.
- The 20% of State funding for CUNY that was withheld by the Governor this past year is being restored. The funds have already started to be returned to CUNY. CUNY management blamed almost all its punitive fiscal actions last year on this withholding or on “budget uncertainty”—the layoffs of adjuncts, the freezing of searches and the decision to violate our contract by failing to pay our 2% raise.
- Every cut in State funds for CUNY proposed by Governor Cuomo has been rescinded. There will be no 5% across-the-board cut in State funds built onto CUNY’s baseline budget. The value of this restoration is $26.2 million.
- With the 20% of withheld funds restored and the proposed cuts no longer in place, CUNY should immediately announce that it will implement our 2% raise and pay all retroactive amounts; re-hire all adjunct faculty, adjunct CLTs and non-teaching adjuncts who were laid off in June 2020; restore assignment hours to adjuncts whose hours were cut; resume regularly granting assignment differentials and reclassification to HEOs; and reopen searches for full-time positions that were put on hold because of fears of future budget deficits.
- In addition, CUNY received $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds: from ARP ($794 million), CRRSAA ($455 million) and the CARES Act ($251 million). The stimulus funds are partially restricted, with designated amounts allocated for direct aid to students. Even so, CUNY is projected to receive $802 million in institutional aid from just the December 2020 and March 2021 stimulus bills.
- CUNY must not hoard these funds, as it held back the CARES Act funds. The hundreds of millions of dollars must be used, consistent with the federal statute, to provide the resources urgently needed by students, faculty and staff in this continuing public health crisis—including resources to protect our health and safety in the workplace. CUNY colleges must also provide total transparency in their use of the funds and be responsive to the proposals by the PSC for using the funds.
- The State budget includes $26 million this year and statutory language for future years that will finally close the “TAP Gap,” the gap between the TAP funding for students and the actual cost of CUNY tuition. The maximum TAP award is also increased by $500, to $5,665—a major gain for students and for CUNY colleges. Increasing the TAP award will narrow the gap this year and will add a projected $26 million in unrestricted funds for CUNY. The statutory language closing the TAP Gap by 2025 also means increases in revenue for CUNY in each of these years.
- The tuition increase for Fiscal Year 2022 supported by the governor and the CUNY Board of Trustees was rejected—but the final budget does not provide the $33 million the tuition increase was projected to generate. The PSC pushed hard, right up to the final minutes of negotiations, to secure funds to cover the foregone revenue from a tuition increase, but we did not prevail. While the federal stimulus money more than covers this gap for next year, CUNY budgets must not continue to be based on the premise of constant tuition increases. “Predictable tuition” is just privatization masquerading as a benign policy. CUNY budgets should be based on solid public funding.
- In a provision the PSC and NYSUT saved on the last day of budget negotiations, community colleges will be “held harmless” for decreases in enrollment next year, and $50 per full-time-equivalent student will be added to State base aid for community colleges. This is a critical provision because it ensures that no CUNY or SUNY community college will receive less than 98% of the amount of State support they received last year, regardless of any drops in enrollment. State funding for community colleges is calculated on a per-student basis, so the hold-harmless provision was essential.
- Funding for opportunity programs will be increased by an average of 20%, including a much-needed increase in funding for SEEK.
- Other important provisions in the State budget include the addition of $1 million for mental health counseling for students, restoration of funds the governor proposed to cut from ASAP and the School of Labor and Urban Studies, and the continuation of a provision to set aside $12 million in state aid to be allocated to senior colleges per an approved plan of the CUNY Board of Trustees to support new classroom faculty.
- Capital funding also received an important increase: $100 million for capital improvements and $10 million for an offshore wind power and green energy field training.
- Finally, the budget included authorization for New York City to offer its public employees an early retirement incentive, specific to the New York City retirement plans. PSC officers and staff are still analyzing the details of the incentive and whether it will apply to any CUNY employees. We will let you know as soon as more information is available.
- And of course the big news about the State budget this year is that the movement to end tax breaks for the rich and redistribute the vast wealth of this state had its first big success. The PSC is proud to be a strong partner in that movement.
Every improvement for CUNY in the budget is there because PSC members, together with CUNY students and other allies, fought for it—and because the New Deal for CUNY allowed legislators and the public alike to reimagine CUNY.