The following is a statement made by Barbara Bowen, President of the PSC.
New York, June 21, 2011 — While all the details of Albany’s emerging “framework” for funding CUNY and SUNY are not yet available, we commend the legislative leaders and the governor for recognizing the need to stabilize funding for CUNY and SUNY. Such stability is long overdue. As the agreement is finalized, we call on Albany to ensure full protection of annual funding and necessary cost increases.
We object, however, to the annual tuition increases on which the framework is reportedly built. Five years of tuition increases is not the way to protect opportunity for CUNY students, nor is it the way to ensure long-term public investment in public higher education. Tuition increases are a tax in disguise—a tax that disproportionately hurts the poor.
The framework takes an important step toward protecting the lowest-income students from the sting of the proposed increases by providing credits for tuition in excess of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) ceiling, and makes an important statement by ruling out differential tuition. Significant as these protections are, they do not go far enough. Thousands of students already fall through the cracks in TAP, and many others may be discouraged from entering college by the escalating cost. In addition, CUNY should not have to absorb the cost of offsetting tuition above the TAP ceiling.
There is another way—a better way—to fund CUNY. Instead of turning low- and middle-income students into cash machines, New York should continue the “millionaires’ tax.” It is unconscionable to ask the poorest people in the state to pay more for the chance of a college education when the wealthiest New Yorkers are not asked to contribute their fair share.