TESTIMONY OF THE PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS/CUNY
JOINT HEARING OF SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE AND
ASSEMBLY WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
February 10, 2011
Delivered by Dr. Barbara Bowen, President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY
PSC President Barbara Bowen and First Vice President Steve London joined leaders from United University Professions (UUP) and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to urge legislators to oppose cuts to CUNY and SUNY.
- On behalf of the 22,000 CUNY faculty and staff I represent, I begin by thanking Senator John A. DeFransciso and Assemblymember Herman D. Farrell, Jr. for the opportunity to speak on the critical issue of the Executive Budget for the City University of New York. I am joined today by the union’s First Vice President, Dr. Steve London.
- The Professional Staff Congress calls on you to oppose the Governor’s proposed cuts to CUNY and reverse the long-established trend of underinvestment in our university system. More fundamentally, we urge you to show courage in your pursuit of revenue measures that would help to balance the state budget without punishing the most vulnerable New Yorkers. It’s unrealistic and ultimately cruel to close a $10 billion gap with cuts alone.
- With a budget deficit of that size, the conversation about the budget must include consideration of ways of increasing revenue. And we can’t have an honest discussion about revenue without addressing the growing income inequality in New York State.
–In New York State, the top 1% of income earners collect 35% of all income.
–In New York City, the top 1% of income earners collect 44% of all income.
–We haven’t seen this level of income disparity since 1928.
- Budget-setting is about making choices, and the FY 2011-2012 Executive Budget, in the state with the highest income inequality in the country, represents a choice to protect the interests of the wealthiest New Yorkers at the expense of education, healthcare, and social services for the poor and middle class.
- With two trillion dollars sitting on the corporate balance sheets and record profits for the Wall Street firms responsible for the financial crisis that precipitated the state’s budget shortfall, we should be talking about ways to ask those who benefit most from our system to pay their fair share—not about further enriching them while crushing the middle class.
- If New York State follows the wrong priorities embodied in the governor’s budget, years of social progress will be undone. Rebuilding of the middle class will be impossible. Yet there is widespread agreement among economists that the economy will not recover without a healthy middle class.
CUNY: Engine of Equality and Economic Growth
- CUNY has always been the university for working-class students. We educate a student body that is disproportionately low-income, immigrant and largely Black, Hispanic, and Asian. We provide our students a path to opportunity—a way to overcome the huge economic inequalities that exist in our state.
–74% of current undergraduates are students of color and 60% are women.
–208 countries and 195 languages are represented at CUNY
–44% are the first generation to attend college
–38% come from households with annual incomes of $20,000 or less; among community college students, the percentage is 46%
–59% depend on financial aid (Pell and/or other grants and scholarships)
–41% work more than half-time jobs (20 hours per week)
- Statewide income inequality is highly correlated to educational achievement gaps, faltering wages, and lack of investment in jobs, physical and human capital development and innovation.
- Public investment in CUNY generates job opportunities for individual students. It also promotes innovation, creativity, and social development, all of which are important for a more productive and prosperous future for all New Yorkers.
- CUNY graduates infuse every part of the city’s economy with energy and revenue—from business to government to healthcare to fashion and the arts. Their contributions to the state’s economy (and its tax base) are far-reaching and significant.
–70% of associate’s degree recipients and 80% of bachelor’s recipients from CUNY continue to make their home in New York City after graduation.
–CUNY awards 5,300 baccalaureate and master’s degrees in business and finance every year, about one third of all the business and finance graduates from all New York City institutions
one-third of New York City public school teachers are CUNY graduates
- If the Governor’s budget is enacted, CUNY’s ability to contribute fully to the economic and cultural vitality of our city and state may be lost.
- Not increasing investment in CUNY at this time just does not make economic sense.
Accelerating a Long-Term Trend of Underinvestment
- Under the Governor’s budget, CUNY senior colleges would endure an $11.9 million cut carried over from the state’s current-year deficit reduction and a newly-proposed $83.2 million cut, for a total decrease of $95.1 million.
- This year’s Executive Budget cuts to CUNY’s senior ($95.1 million) and community colleges ($17.5 million) come after two years of reductions and a long history of disinvestment of state funds.
- Contrary to the impression created by Governor Cuomo, State law does not guarantee yearly increases in appropriations for CUNY. In fact, over the last two years (FY 2008/09 to FY 2010/11), CUNY funding has been reduced, when adjusted for inflation and FTE enrollment:
–direct state aid to CUNY senior colleges declined by 14.3%
–direct state aid to CUNY community colleges declined by 9.4%
- Over the last 20 years the state’s disinvestment in CUNY is even more apparent. From FY 1990/1991 to FY 2010/11, when adjusted for inflation and FTE enrollment:
–direct state aid to CUNY senior colleges declined by 35.4%
–direct state aid to CUNY community colleges declined by 32.7%
Quality Education at CUNY Will be Endangered
- The Executive Budget, if enacted, would directly attack the quality of education at CUNY. Twenty years of cuts, amounting to nearly a third of CUNY’s funding from the State, have already endangered educational quality. The current proposal would actively impede the efforts of the faculty and staff to offer working-class New Yorkers a quality college education.
- If the cuts are imposed, class size—already at unacceptable levels on many campuses—would increase further. Students crammed into overcrowded classes would have less of their professors’ attention and time.
- Course offerings are likely to be reduced, forcing students to wait longer for graduation.
- Some departments have already closed their departmental office two days a week, lacking sufficient support personnel to staff them. Students seeking help will find a locked door.
- Some of the most productive faculty at CUNY are already seeking to leave, including many of the young faculty recruited in recent years with funding added by the Legislature. Despite their commitment to CUNY’s mission, they find that they are sabotaging their careers to stay at a university that cannot support their scientific research or that imposes such a heavy teaching load that they can no longer be productive scholars.
- Many campuses have already reduced spending on supplies, laboratory equipment and library resources. Without those vital elements, students are at an immediate disadvantage; the education they receive is necessarily less rich than it should be.
- The PSC refuses to accept poverty conditions for our students. Many of them have come to CUNY to find a way out of poverty; they cannot do that if their university itself endures poverty conditions.
Forcing Students to Pay More
- Tuition increases are not the answer to underinvestment in CUNY. Public higher education’s ability to raise revenue has been interpreted by New York State as permission to cut appropriations.
- Whenever the state withdraws funding from CUNY, it taxes students by increasing tuition, with little benefit to CUNY’s bottom line.
–In FY 1990/91, tuition and fees as a portion of CUNY’s total budget were 21.4%.
–In FY 2010/11, tuition and fees as a portion of CUNY’s total budget are 41.9%.
- The result? Students are paying more and CUNY is getting less.
The Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Will Not Reduce the Hardship of Tuition Hikes
- Students are shouldering a greater share of the burden of funding CUNY even when TAP is taken into account. Students’ out-of-pocket cost (tuition minus TAP aid) as a proportion of the CUNY budget has increased from 16.5% to 33.5% since 1990-91.
- Some of the neediest students at CUNY attend the University part-time. Most low-income part-time students do not benefit from TAP. In 2009, CUNY enrolled 77,789 part-time students. HESC data estimated that only 142 part-time CUNY students received TAP that year.
- 20,000 low-income students whose financial aid is determined by TAP’s Independent Awards Schedule —essentially New York City’s working poor—are unduly harmed by tuition hikes because they are subject to an eligibility schedule for TAP that has not been adjusted since 1994.
- Students who have exhausted their financial aid are also particularly vulnerable to tuition hikes. For the 2009-10 academic year, HESC estimated that 8,145 CUNY students exhausted their TAP eligibility before they graduated.
- The Governor’s continuation of most of last year’s TAP cuts and changes will amplify the effect of the recent tuition hike. Elimination of graduate student TAP awards and the leveling-down of eligibility standards for independent married students without dependents will hurt CUNY students. The Governor’s acceptance of more stringent Standards of Academic Progress for TAP should be of particular concern. Even under the previous standards—the standards that were in place before this year—10,543 students lost their financial aid.
Privatization and Public Private Partnerships are Not the Solution to Lack of Funding
- Public-Private Partnerships and other PHEEIA-type proposals are not the answer to CUNY’s funding needs.
- Innovation, additional funds from patents, and creative arrangements with non-profits and the corporate sector will flow from increased public investment.
- If CUNY were fully funded, we would have four to five thousand more full-time faculty with a workload that would allow for more cutting-edge research and the consequent social and economic contributions to New York. Without the necessary public investment, we will continue to struggle and not be able to realize our full potential.
Revenue and Investment in CUNY is the Solution
- There are many revenue-generating proposals that would be appropriate at this time, for example:
–Extending the Personal Income Tax surcharge (the “millionaires tax”)
–Closing corporate loopholes, including the treatment of hedge fund managers’ income
–Retaining a portion of the stock transfer tax
New York needs to rebuild, not destroy. Public investment in CUNY makes sense.
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