The Mayor’s planned cuts to community colleges would unjustly target low- and moderate-income, immigrant and minority students at a time when City tax revenue is on the rise.
The PSC is still analyzing the Preliminary Budget, but a first look at the Mayor’s budget documents reveals that he is turning his back on the most underserved New Yorkers.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to cut CUNY is a decision to block students’ movement out of poverty. People come to CUNY because they want to change their lives—materially, economically, intellectually; our community colleges help them overcome the huge—and growing—inequalities that exist in our city. It’s unconscionable that Mayor Bloomberg would aim cuts at the most vulnerable New Yorkers when Wall Street banks are making record profits and City revenues are growing. ” said Barbara Bowen, president of the PSC.
Forty-six percent of CUNY’s community college students come from households with annual incomes of $20,000 or less. Eighty-one percent are students of color, and 16 percent are supporting children while they attend classes. Within six months of graduation, 94 percent of CUNY Associates degree recipients are employed or continuing their education, regardless of race or economic status.
City tax revenue is projected to be $2 billion higher than anticipated last year.
Despite the extra tax revenue and the resounding economic and societal impacts of the City’s community colleges, the Mayor’s budget reduces funding for CUNY community college by approximately $35 million, compared to last year’s allocation (2010-2011). The budget also provides no funds for Vallone Scholarships, the City’s merit-based financial aid program, and no funds for CUNY programs that were funded with restorations made by the City Council last year, such as the Black Male Initiative.
While the State provides most of the funding for CUNY’s senior colleges, New York City supplies 36 percent of the funding that supports CUNY’s six community colleges.
Bowen argued that the Mayor’s cuts would be especially devastating given the significant proposed state funding reductions. If the Governor’s proposed $17.5 million cut to CUNY community colleges is enacted, state-allocated base aid for community college would be reduced by almost 25 percent.
“Ever-larger class sizes, fewer full-time faculty, less student mentoring and guidance, longer time to graduation, higher tuition and more students failing and dropping out—these are results we can expect from Governor Cuomo’s and Mayor Bloomberg’s cuts,” said Bowen.
Class size is already at an unacceptable level on many community college campuses. Full-time faculty-to-student ratios are well below CUNY’s stated goals, and 50 percent of community college students in a recent survey reported being unable to register for required classed because of overcrowding, reduced course sections and similar problems.
PSC will be working with the City Council to ensure that proposed cuts to CUNY are defeated.
“Our members and their students have historically been active explaining to City Councilpersons the devastating consequences to New Yorkers of cutting funding for CUNY community colleges, and they have heard us and responded positively,” said PSC First Vice-President Steve London. “This year, we will bring our message to the Council in even larger numbers.”