Urge Albany to Fully Fund CUNY’s Requested $313 Million State Budget Increase and Support Legislation to Make CUNY Free Again
Saturday, December 11
Queens NY – Nearly a thousand City University of New York students, faculty and staff marched with other CUNY allies in Queens, calling on Albany to fully fund the University’s budget request and support New Deal for CUNY legislation.
Starting at LaGuardia Community College and ending at Court Square Park after a stop at the CUNY School of Law, the event was led by a cross section of New York’s labor, social justice and student organizations. Marchers with masks that read “#APeoplesCUNY” and red shirts that said “Everybody Love Somebody at CUNY” were accompanied by a brass band. Street theater performances coordinated by Bread and Puppet Theater with big #NewDealforCUNY banners bookended the day’s program.
(Video and photo usage can be attributed to “Courtesy of the Professional Staff Congress”. )
Timestamps: 0:00 Attorney General G James, 1:43 Public Advocate Williams, 4:00 Comptroller-elect Lander and 12:50 March B-roll.
The marchers were joined by NYS Attorney General Letitia James, NYC Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and multiple City and State lawmakers, including New Deal for CUNY sponsors Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assembly Member Karines Reyes.
AG Letitia James
“As a proud CUNY graduate, I know firsthand the power of a CUNY education and the opportunity it provides to so many New Yorkers who might otherwise not have access to higher education,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “But there would be no CUNY without the dedicated professors and faculty and staff behind it, and we must give them and our students the support they need to keep this system running. That means ensuring fair staffing ratios, providing adequate mental health support, and keeping tuition low so that all our students can have access to the quality education they deserve. These investments into CUNY are key to the continued success of New York City and the entire state.”
Per-student state funding for CUNY senior colleges has fallen 38% since 1990 and 18% since 2008 with inflation, leading to tuition hikes, reduced services, over reliance on underpaid adjuncts and shortages of full-time faculty and staff. This year, CUNY’s state budget request asks for an operating budget increase of $313 million to hire 1,075 additional full-time faculty, add new mental health counselors and advisors and freeze tuition for CUNY students, as well as an increased capital investment of $5.8 billion over the next five years.
“Underfunding CUNY doesn’t make dollars or sense. CUNY has proven repeatedly to increase students’ economic mobility and provide economic returns for the city and state, where most students live and work after they complete their degrees. Yet underfunding has been the norm for far too long, and the faculty and staff we represent at the PSC have been asked for too long to do more with less. Now the opportunity exists to support CUNY students – the majority of whom are people of color, immigrants, and the first generation in their families to attend college – in the way that they deserve. We call on legislators, the Governor, and the Mayor to fulfill CUNY’s budget request and, further, to support the New Deal for CUNY legislation. This is the moment for a bold and transformative investment in New York City’s historic public higher education system,” said PSC/CUNY President James Davis, who represents 30,000 faculty and professional staff at CUNY.
The New Deal for CUNY would make CUNY tuition-free again, set minimum faculty- and staff-to-student ratios, raise pay for adjuncts and expand and modernize CUNY’s infrastructure.
““CUNY is the pride of NYC. Most CUNY students stay here after graduating and contribute billions of dollars to our economy. As we look for ways to recover from the COVID-19 economic crisis,what better way than to invest in a sure thing: our amazing public universities. Our students deserve full time teachers, mental health support, academic advisors and buildings that aren’t falling apart. The New Deal for CUNY is common sense smart fiscal policy and I’m ready to fight for it in 2022,” said Senator Andrew Gounardes, prime sponsor of the New Deal for CUNY.
At the CUNY School of Law, the marchers stopped to hear statements from members of several CUNY Rising Alliance Groups, including NYPIRG, CUNY University Student Senate, and NY Communities for Change.
“The New Deal for CUNY is beyond a budget request, it provides HOPE for all New Yorkers including immigrants and low-income communities. Sixty percent of CUNY students have annual family incomes below $30,000. CUNY serves as a lifeline to many students and families, providing access to higher education and the opportunity to climb the social ladder and follow their dreams.” said CUNY Rising Alliance Campaign Director Remysell Salas.
“CUNY’s budget request coupled with the New Deal for CUNY is the 1-2 punch our students, faculty, and staff need as we fight our way out of this pandemic. As yet another variant encroaches on New York, it’s clear that going back to ‘normal’ is a thing of the past – we need to be forward-thinking in all of our industries. All the data points to economic mobility being tied to education, so Governor Hochul and our state legislature have an opportunity to show the nation how to get investing in education right. We need a New Deal for CUNY yesterday, today, and tomorrow!” said Cory Provost, Interim Chairperson and Vice Chair for Legislative Affairs for CUNY University Student Senate.
Elected officials spoke out at the end of the march at Court Square Park. Those championing CUNY investment, included Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Senators Andrew Gournardes, Toby Stavisky, John Liu and Jabari Bisport, and Assemblymembers Karines Reyes, Jessica González-Rojas, Michaelle Solages, Marcela Mitaynes and Emily Gallagher.
Public Advocate Juumane Williams
“I’m a proud CUNY alumni twice over, and as CUNY continues to be the path to higher education for so many, especially immigrant, low-income, Black and brown New Yorkers, it is completely unacceptable that its per-student budget has plummeted in the last fifteen years, The years of tuition hikes, lack of sufficient mental health counselors, and deteriorating infrastructure show a failure to prioritize affordable public education, or support students and staff alike. Albany must fully fund CUNY with a new deal that prioritizes equity, so that the opportunity that I and so many others had for a high quality CUNY education is accessible to all New Yorkers,” said NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams.
“At a time of economic anxiety and change, investment in CUNY and the opportunities that public higher education provides points the best way forward for an inclusive and just recovery. It’s time for a New Deal for CUNY, and an end to austerity budgets that shortchange our young people and educators,” said NYC Comptroller-elect Brad Lander.
“For nearly 175 years CUNY has been a vital force in New York. Since 1990, the University has produced a million graduates, more than 80% of whom have stayed right here in New York, contributing billions to the economy. CUNY has produced alumni such as General Colin Powell, Jonas Salk and approximately 15 Nobel laureates. Funding has declined nearly 20% since the Great Recession, and double that since the early 1990s. Students suffer as a result, with less opportunities to connect with faculty, fewer classes and longer wait times for counseling and advisement services. We need a New Deal for CUNY to remedy this decline in funding, and make this great institution all that it can be. We made great strides in this year’s budget by closing the TAP/GAP. Let us continue to close the Gap,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
“In spite of a long and racist history of disinvestment, our CUNY system has proved to be resilient and continued to provide quality education to millions of New Yorkers. CUNY, and its faculty and staff, are a major engine of growth and social uplift in New York, and it is high time for us to double down and invest more deeply in this crucial engine. CUNY graduates like me deserve the best there is, and deserve a right to that education free of tuition costs. That’s why I’m so proud to stand with PSC-CUNY and with the working class women of color who, like me, have seen our lives changed by our wonderful CUNY system,” said Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest.
“The New Deal for CUNY will restore our city’s university system to its historic mission as a tuition-free, truly democratic public institution for the working class. It will lift thousands of adjuncts out of poverty, hire more unionized faculty and invest in the safety, efficiency and maintenance of CUNY buildings. It’s exactly the kind of transformative legislation we desperately need in this moment of halting recovery and I will fight with everything I’ve got for its passage this coming year,” said Assemblymember Emily Gallagher.
“As a former faculty at City College, I have seen the way that a CUNY education can lift students out of deep poverty to professions that contribute great resources to their neighborhoods, to our city and state. With new leadership in New York, it is time to end the austerity that has limited the potential of our great state, to end the tuition hikes and the disinvestment and exploitation of faculty and staff. We must pass a New Deal for CUNY, which prioritizes our students and their wellbeing and provides true worker and economic justice. Let’s make CUNY free again,”said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas.