As the new chairwoman of the state Assembly's Higher Education Committee, Deborah Glick hopes to put her passion for public education into action on behalf of community colleges.
"In the last 15 years, public higher education in New York state has been systematically starved," Glick told a supportive audience at NYSUT's annual conference. "We need to keep a structured level of proper funding. That is my job, that is your job, and it is something we have to hold the governor to."
Glick, a lifelong New York City resident whose Assembly district takes in Manhattan's lower West Side, became chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee seven months ago. She looks forward to the upcoming legislative session to tackle some critical issues, including the difficulty of retaining talented public college faculty and staff who know they can get higher salaries, smaller classes and more reasonable workloads at private schools.
Glick is also serving on the state's Commission on Higher Education, which Gov. Spitzer has convened to examine the state's public higher education system, including community colleges (its report is due this month). Among the commission's tasks: Expanding the degree programs of public colleges and universities to more closely reflect the needs of the New York economy.
The commission will begin hearings on its soon-to-be-released recommendations in December (watch http://www.nysut.org/ for updates). Glick said some commission members appear to favor tuition increases as a way of addressing funding shortfalls. Many higher ed local union leaders also question tuition increases as counterproductive and inadequate to address shortfalls. Public universities and colleges in New York are already seeing more students take longer than four years to graduate — Glick referred to the "mythical four years" — because so many students must struggle to gain admission to overenrolled courses.
Glick would also like part-time faculty to have more opportunities to move into full-time faculty positions.
"It is something I believe should and must be raised at the hearings," she said to enthusiastic applause.
Glick is a product of New York City public schools and CUNY's Queens College. "Higher education meant so miuch in my life, and I absolutely believe that public education is the bedrock of our democracy," she said.
— Darryl McGrath