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Student/Faculty Albany Lobby Day: 3/15/11: Restore CUNY Funding

Mar 16, 2011

Click here for slideshow. Our state affiliate, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) also has an article, pictures and video on the student/faculty lobby day.

Albany, March 15. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff from CUNY and SUNY gathered today to urge the legislature to restore public funding for higher education.

A Bronx cheer for Governor Cuomo’s budget.

The Student/Faculty Higher Education Action Day started with a march down State Street and ended with a news conference and rally in the park on the west side of the Capitol. Throughout the day, most state legislators met with constituents from public colleges across the state, including NYPIRG chairperson and Brooklyn College student Patrick Krug.

“I stand today with a strong coalition of organizations that understand this fundamental truth — New York State must not rob its future by cutting higher education!” said Krug, as he welcomed the participants.

The Executive Budget, if enacted, would cut SUNY by an additional $100 million and cut CUNY by an additional $95.1 million. It would also cut another $61.8 million from community colleges (the equivalent of $226 per full-time student over the academic year).

A clear message: Invest in higher education

After three years of painful funding reductions, classrooms at many CUNY and SUNY campuses are overcrowded, students are struggling to get the courses they need to graduate, and facilities are falling further into disrepair.

Low- and middle-income CUNY and SUNY students would also be hurt by the Governor’s plan to continue rule changes to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) that were implemented this year despite broad legislative opposition. Those changes have reduced or eliminated state aid for graduate students, dependents of retired workers, certain independent students without dependents, and students who are struggling with federal student loans or grades.

On the march to the capital.

“This latest cut goes against New York’s pledge to provide access to a quality education,” said Julie Gondar, President of the SUNY Student Assembly. “In order for SUNY students to be competitive in the workforce, we need to first get the high quality education that drew us to SUNY in the first place; and the Legislature has the power to preserve that. A thirty percent reduction in state support over three years is not only causing detrimental effects on our campuses and in our academic programs, it is also a short-sighted and irresponsible way to prepare New York State for its future.”

All these proposed cuts would come while the state’s public colleges and universities are still reeling from three years’ worth of deep cuts that have already undermined quality, access and affordability. Hiring freezes and other cuts have led to longer lines, bigger classes and reduced course offerings, all at a time when enrollments are skyrocketing.

“The students of CUNY are tired of the state’s corrosive approach to higher education. The assault on higher education must be stopped. CUNY students deserve better. We demand better,” said Cory Provost, chairperson of the CUNY-wide University Student Senate.

Faculty members fear that the quality of public higher education cannot survive and New York cannot prosper if the state doesn’t start reinvesting in SUNY and CUNY. Their union leaders made their case loud and clear as they addressed the gathering of students and their colleagues.

“Budgets are about choices, and in this state, with the highest income inequality in the country, the budget should not put the interests of the corporations and the wealthy ahead of the needs of ordinary New Yorkers like the students at CUNY,” said Dr. Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY.

Jennifer Collazo and Gladys Alayon, Queens College

“We cannot and will not allow New York’s students and families to be robbed of the opportunity for an affordable, high quality public higher education because of these budget cuts,” said UUP President Phil Smith. “All qualified students should have the opportunity to go to college and get a quality education, regardless of their income–that’s what public higher education is all about.”

“Investment in SUNY, CUNY and their community colleges is essential to growing New York’s future,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. “We need full restoration of higher ed funding to guarantee student access and to preserve quality at our public higher education institutions. That is key to our students’ futures and revitalization of our state’s economy. To produce the dividend of an educated workforce needed to sustain economic growth, we must invest in higher education,” said Andrew Pallotta, executive vice president of NYSUT.

Judith Barbanel, QCC chapter chair (center in red), and QCC students lobby assemblywoman Barbara M. Clark.

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