Faculty, Students Demand “New Deal” for CUNY and SUNY to End Higher Ed Funding Crisis
Hundreds Rally at Capitol for Higher Education Action Day
Albany— More than 700 college students, faculty and staff rallied alongside Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and other lawmakers in Albany today during a statewide Higher Education Action Day held by groups mobilizing to end the funding crisis at the State University and the City University of New York—SUNY and CUNY.
The groups’ joint platform says “SUNY and CUNY need a new deal, not another year of flat operating budgets, tuition hikes and increasing tuition dependence.” They want increased public funding and a fully funded tuition freeze, not underfunding and program cuts.
Senate Higher Education Chair Toby Ann Stavisky, Assembly Higher Education Chair Deborah Glick, Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein, Rebecca Seawright, and Felix Ortiz and Senator Andrew Gounardes also addressed the group. Assemblymember Al Taylor was in attendance as well. After the crowd rallied with legislators in the Empire State Plaza, the students and faculty dispersed for meetings with more than 100 legislators.
Student leaders and union officers spoke about the need to invest in quality public higher education.
“In order for SUNY to meet its mission—to offer every New Yorker a high quality and affordable higher education—we must increase state support for public higher education. The talent and dreams of SUNY’s 1.4 million students is always worth the investment,” said Austin Ostro, President of the SUNY Student Assembly.
After years of rising operating costs, New York’s public colleges and universities are in trouble, and students are losing out. Staff shortages, limited course availability, cuts to tutoring and libraries, and unmanageable caseloads for advisors and mental health counselors are undermining student success and threatening the state’s economic growth long-term.
“New York’s students, faculty, and community stakeholders are tired of fighting for crumbs while New York State continues to divest from higher education. The last decade was defined by a lack of state investment while CUNY and SUNY students contributed at least $2.5 billion dollars in tuition. Students have done their share, now it’s time for the state to do theirs. We deserve access to a quality, affordable public education not because we are special or resilient or bright—which we are—but because education is a human right and the tools for our future belongs in the hands of the People,” said Santana Alvarado, NYPIRG Board of Directors Chairperson and CUNY Hunter College student.
The groups are calling for increased state revenue and investment across both systems, at universities, colleges, community colleges and teaching hospitals. They want an end to the TAP Gap, a $160 million hole in the SUNY and CUNY budgets caused by the State’s policy of not funding the full cost of students’ financial aid. More money for community colleges and improvements to financial aid and opportunity programs are also on the agenda.
“As we are seeing the economic impact report of schools across CUNY, we are seeing the true value of CUNY schools. The fact that Queens College can contribute almost $2 billion dollars to our economy means that it would be common sense for the state legislature to increase their investment in public higher education! The time is now for us to freeze tuition, fill the TAP Gap, and double down on our progressive stances as New Yorkers. A fully funded higher education is a right, not a privilege, and the state of New York needs to treat it as such,” said Timothy Hunter, Chairperson of the CUNY University Student Senate.
Increased investments in SUNY and CUNY would help protect affordability, relieve full-time faculty shortages, improve pay and working conditions for adjunct faculty, and ensure the kind of advisement and robust student services that help students to succeed.
“In order for New York State to thrive and grow, our political leaders need to make SUNY and CUNY a priority. Investing in our students is an investment in the future of our state. UUP will always stand with students to fight for a better university system. The time is now to end the long-term disinvestment in higher education and begin to address the real needs of faculty, professionals and the students who are striving for opportunity and success,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D.
“CUNY is in a state of budget emergency; the University cannot withstand another year of the current funding policy. New York’s progressive agenda does not extend to its public universities. Flat budgets and incremental cuts, repeated year after year, are sabotaging our students’ education. CUNY cannot wait another year for the funding crisis to be solved. Remember what happens to a dream deferred,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, Ph.D.
“Educational inequality has become the most pressing issue of our time, and the only way to reverse this alarming trend is by fully funding public education, from pre-K through college,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Whether it’s at four-year public universities, community colleges or SUNY hospitals, the message from students, faculty and staff is clear: Fund our future.”