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Home » Issues » Progress in Albany, But More Investment is Needed

Progress in Albany, But More Investment is Needed

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(March 2017) The State Senate and Assembly have both put forward their one-house budget resolutions, which set the table for the remaining budget negotiations in Albany. President Bowen released the following statement:

Statement on the New York State Senate and Assembly One-House Budget Resolutions

The members of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY welcome the growing discussion in Albany of college affordability. Now it is time for that discussion to include a serious commitment to college investment. New York State public funding for the City University of New York, when adjusted for inflation and enrollment growth, has still not returned to 2008 levels. To increase access to CUNY while continuing to starve the University of funds is short-sighted. Without additional operating support, CUNY students will not have access to the high-quality education on which the affordability programs are premised.

We commend the New York State Senate and Assembly for the funding restorations included in both one-house budgets, particularly on mandatory cost increases. Both the Senate and the Assembly responded to the voices of PSC members and included in their one-house budgets maintenance of effort language to fully cover CUNY’s mandatory cost increases, including collective bargaining increases. It is essential that the enacted budget fully fund the cost of the University’s basic contractual commitments to its employees.

Now we call on the Legislature and the Executive to increase CUNY operating aid in the enacted budget so that students seeking a better life with a CUNY degree will have the resources they need.

The New York State Senate and Assembly have put forward their own proposals to increase college affordability through enhancements to the state Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) or a combination of TAP improvements and an expansion of Governor Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship. We are grateful that both the Senate and the Assembly expand TAP eligibility to part-time students, and that the Assembly gradually increases the maximum TAP award to cover the full cost of CUNY tuition. With three new proposals for college affordability on the table, Albany has a chance to negotiate a breakthrough budget for CUNY students and families.

Increasing investment in New York’s public universities as part of a college affordability initiative would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of New York families and could set a national policy agenda.

But greater investment is needed. The University struggles to provide the resources needed for high-quality college education even for current students. Increasing access to CUNY without significantly increasing investment would mean that resources are even further strained.

Even without additional students, CUNY operates with a shortage of 4,000 full-time faculty and relies on the underpaid labor of more than 12,000 adjunct faculty, who teach more than half of its courses. Any free tuition or affordability initiative in the enacted state budget must include funds to allow the University to begin to fill the gap in full-time faculty positions, provide additional support for adjuncts, and strengthen the student support services that keep students on pace to graduate.

We commend the Assembly for increasing Base Aid to community colleges by $100 per FTE-student, while the Senate provides only a $50 per-FTE increase and decreases the funding provided in the Executive Budget to community colleges as a result of the Excelsior Scholarship. CUNY community colleges cannot sustain any reduction in funds. Base Aid is still below 2008 levels, when adjusted for inflation, and should be increased by $250 per FTE-student this year.

The Assembly also makes essential restorations to opportunity programs, while the Senate budget would leave opportunity programs without restoration of funds cut in the Executive Budget. Opportunity programs are proven to improve student success, and must be adequately funded in the final budget.
Finally, we applaud the Assembly for joining the Governor in funding the NY DREAM Act, legislation that is more urgent than ever now. This is the year to pass the DREAM Act—as well as the year for New York State to make a difference in the future of its families by funding the public universities they rely on.

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