January 30, 2008

Testimony on Higher Education 2008

Source: NYSUT Division of Legislation

Testimony of Alan B. Lubin, Executive Vice President , New York State United Teachers, to the Senate Finance Committee, Owen H. Johnson, Chair, and Assembly Ways and Means Committee, Herman D. Farrell, Jr., Chair, on the Proposed 2008-09 Executive Budget for Higher Education

January 30, 2008


alan b. lubinSenator Johnson, Assemblyman Farrell, honorable members of the Legislature and distinguished staff, I am Alan B. Lubin, Executive Vice President of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). NYSUT represents more than 585,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education, in health care and retirees statewide. My testimony represents the concerns of 68,000 faculty and professional staff who work in colleges and universities across New York State. These include the members of United University Professions at the State University of New York, the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York and the faculty and staff at nearly all the SUNY community colleges in this state.

I am joined today by Dr. Frederick Floss, Acting President of United University Professions (UUP), and by Dr. Barbara Bowen, President of Professional Staff Congress (PSC). You will hear from both Dr. Floss and Dr. Bowen concerning the 2008-09 Executive Budget in a few moments.

Thank you for convening these public hearings and for the opportunity to testify today.

Last year, for the first time in many years, the Executive Budget for SUNY and CUNY took a significant step forward in departing from the disturbing trend of under funding our public colleges and universities by holding the line on tuition, maintaining base level funding and providing funding to cover mandatory costs.

We thank the Legislature for providing an additional $10 million to SUNY state-operated campuses and $6.2 million to CUNY's senior colleges for enrollment growth, full-time faculty and educational opportunity programs. In addition, the Legislature provided an additional $50 per FTE in community college base aid for a total increase of $150 per full-time equivalent student.

While last year's higher education budget improved the financial situations of SUNY, CUNY and the community colleges, there is no question that so more much more needs to be done to reverse the historical under funding of these institutions. We must provide the resources that are so desperately needed if we are serious about making SUNY and CUNY the best in the nation. We are gratified with the findings of the New York State Higher Education Commission namely; that SUNY and CUNY have been chronically under funded and that they lack adequate numbers of full-time faculty. We are encouraged by the Governor's strong public support for the Commission's call for hiring more full-time faculty at SUNY and CUNY. Moreover, we are intrigued by the Governor's creative proposal to establish a higher education endowment. We strongly believe however, that the establishment of any endowment and the proceeds that are generated from it should be used solely for public higher education. In addition, it is critical that any endowment have built-in proper safeguards and that it not be used to supplant the state's obligation to provide state General Fund support for SUNY's and CUNY's operating budgets.

We know it will take a while for any endowment to provide meaningful revenue. Meanwhile, we cannot afford to take a step backwards and lose the momentum that we have gained in the last two years. We are disappointed that our public higher education institutions find themselves in an all too familiar situation of having to play catch-up as the 2008-09 Executive Budget cuts operating aid to SUNY, CUNY and the community colleges.

NYSUT is cognizant of the current fiscal climate and there is no question that you face a difficult charge: constructing a budget that balances needs and resources to satisfy the harsh fiscal circumstances of today, while also positioning the state to grow and thrive tomorrow. To that end, NYSUT firmly believes that New York's economic recovery from this current downturn and the magnitude of its future economic growth are largely predicated upon its financial commitment to its institutions of higher learning. Higher education should be one of the cornerstones of New York State's economic plan. With that in mind, we respectfully make the following budget requests.

STATE OPERATING AID

The State Should Restore the 2.5% Cuts in State Operating Aid to SUNY and CUNY Four-Year Campuses and Fund their Respective Budget Requests

As stated in the Higher Education Commission's Report, the overwhelming problem that has plagued both SUNY and CUNY for well over a decade is the lack of state support for these institutions. Over the last fifteen years there has been a gradual but significant shift in the financing of SUNY's and CUNY's core instructional budgets from state support to tuition revenue. For example, when adjusted for inflation, state support for the SUNY state operated campuses has declined by 36 percent during this time period. In 1990, the percentage of the core instructional budget financed by the state was 75.4 percent. By 2005, that percentage had dropped to 51 percent.

For CUNY, when adjusted for inflation, there has been a decline of 38 percent in state support during this same time period. In 1990, the percentage of the core instructional budget financed by the state was 80 percent. By 2005, that percentage had dropped to 40 percent.

Given this untenable historical financial situation and the increasingly important role that higher education plays in fostering economic growth, we urge you to restore the Executive Budget cuts of 2.5 percent in operating aid to SUNY's and CUNY's four-year institutions. For SUNY, this equates to $34.2 million and for CUNY, $16.7 million. In addition, we ask you to fully fund SUNY's and CUNY's budget requests to enable these institutions to grow and move towards becoming the finest universities in the nation. We ask that you make this investment this year.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE BASE AID

Restore the Executive Budget Cuts and Increase Community College Base Aid by $250 per FTE

Notwithstanding the significant increase of $150 per full-time equivalent student in the 2007-07 State Budget,the statestill fell well short of its statutory funding obligation to provide 40 percent of the net operating costs to these colleges. The state aid share of net operating costs for SUNY community colleges provided for in 2007-08 is just 30.8 percent, with individual campuses ranging from 17.6 percent to 38 percent. Moreover, the average share of net operating costs from student tuition is 37.9 percent, with individual campuses ranging from 24.8 percent to 46.1 percent. The average share of net operating costs from the local sponsor is 31.4 percent, with individual campuses ranging from 18.5 percent to 57.6 percent.

More funding is needed to bring the state closer to its statutory obligation and to protect these institutions that are the gateway to higher education for thousands of New York's citizens. To that end, we ask that the Legislature to restore the Executive's cut of $50 per fte student and provide an additional $250 per fte student in state base aid for a total of $300 per fte student.

NYSUT also asks that the Legislature fund SUNY's request of providing an additional $200 per fte to fund the community colleges high need programs. This will enable community colleges to meet the ever increasing demand from students and host communities for graduates of nursing, allied health and other resource-intensive technical programs. This funding should also go to CUNY to enhance their technical programs.

FULL-TIME FACULTY

Provide Funding for New Full-time Faculty Lines

This is another area of great and continued concern to NYSUT. There is no doubt that the loss of full-time faculty and the over-reliance on part-time faculty has had an adverse impact on the quality of a SUNY and CUNY education.

The Higher Education Commission's preliminary report acknowledges the direct correlation between full-time faculty and higher education quality. The report states that the “lack of investment in full-time faculty poses the single greatest threat to academic quality.” NYSUT, and our higher education affiliates, couldn't agree more with that statement. In fact, we have been making this very same point for countless years in Albany and across this state.

Many once prominent and nationally ranked academic departments at SUNY and CUNY have lost their standing due to the precipitous loss of full-time faculty positions over the last couple of decades. For example, adjusted for enrollment growth, it would take the hiring of 1,600 new full-time faculty at SUNY state-operated campuses today, just to get these campuses back to the level of full-time faculty they had in 1990. For CUNY, the situation is even worse as the university has lost over 5,000 full-time faculty members since 1975. When you examine the full-time faculty picture at our community colleges, the situation does not get any better as 68% percent of the courses taught at these institutions are taught by part-time faculty.

With enrollments steadily rising due, in large part, to today's increasing necessity for a higher education, now is the time for the state to invest in more full-time faculty. We can't afford to wait. Our students can't afford for us to wait. In the fall of 2007, SUNY admitted its largest freshman class ever, totaling 73,302 students. CUNY's enrollment is now the largest it has seen in 35 years. We know that large class sizes at both these institutions are definitely having a negative affect on quality. Other state university systems have made full-time faculty a priority. For example, at the University of Texas almost 80 percent of the faculty is full-time. In Pennsylvania, 76 percent of the faculty is full-time. In Illinois, 73 percent of the faculty is full-time and in Massachusetts, 70 percent of the faculty is full-time. In New York, the average for both systems is below 54 percent. It will take a significant annual investment by the state to address this serious problem to better enable New York to compete with the best public universities in the nation. Unfortunately, no funding was provided for full-time faculty in the 2008-09 Executive Budget and we urge you to add funding for this specific purpose in this year's state budget to SUNY, CUNY and the community colleges.

SUNY HOSPITALS

Provide Additional Funding to SUNY's Hospitals and SUNY Buffalo HSC

While the Executive Budget provides an increase of $7.8 million in the state subsidy to SUNY's hospitals, more funding is needed to address the fiscal problems of these institutions. Our SUNY public hospitals provide accessible first-rate medical care to the communities they serve, including critical life-saving health care services not readily available at other hospitals. Moreover, they provide quality graduate medical education and cutting-edge research. NYSUT feels strongly that the state must commit to providing the funding necessary to ensure that these public hospitals can continue to serve their communities. We ask that the Legislature provide $35 million in additional funding to better enable these institutions to carry out their public missions.

In addition, we ask that the Legislature provide $5 million in desperately needed funding to SUNY Buffalo's Health Science Center to help mitigate the financial problems at this valuable public medical institution. Quality medical education continues to be compromised at this institution due to years of under funding which is not good for the state or the citizens of Buffalo and its surrounding communities.

SUNY's OFFICE OF DIVERSITY AND EDUCATIONAL EQUITY (ODEE)

Provide Full Funding for this Office

NYSUT is firmly committed to expanding diversity in our schools, colleges and universities. Our organization is dedicated to ending the achievement gap in all sectors of education. We strongly support SUNY's Office of Diversity and Educational Equity which is a newly established program that is helping to end the achievement gap at SUNY. This vitally important program provides those minority students in need with the academic support systems that are necessary to help ensure that these students are fulfilling their potential in becoming college graduates. Adequate funding is needed for this important program as student demographics are rapidly changing in New York. The number of Black and Hispanic college age students is steadily rising and so too are students from this population who are entering SUNY. NYSUT urges you to fully fund this program by providing $13.7 million which has been recommended by the SUNY Board of Trustees and the Interim Chancellor.

OPPORTUNITY PROGRAMS

Restore the Cuts and Provide Additional Funding to SUNY and CUNY's Educational Opportunity Programs

It is imperative that the state adequately fund our higher education opportunity programs such as EOP, SEEK, College Discovery and the educational opportunity centers. These programs are the vehicle by which thousands of historically underserved students have realized the dream of obtaining a higher education. These programs have literally transformed lives. We urge you to restore the cuts and to provide additional funding for these life altering programs.

SUNY/CUNY FLEXIBILITY

Reject the Authorization to Sell and Lease Public University Land without Prior Legislative Approval

The Executive Budget provides SUNY and CUNY with additional flexibility, some of which, we cannot support. Specifically, NYSUT and our UUP affiliate strongly oppose the authorization for SUNY to sell or lease property without prior legislative or gubernatorial approval.

Over the last ten years, we have seen a proliferation of SUNY land lease bills that, if enacted in their original form, would have potentially had a detrimental affect on public employees. Some of these bills were drafted and introduced in the Legislature authorizing the leasing of public property to private entities to carry out any functions and/or services that the SUNY Trustees deemed appropriate to further SUNY's interests. In many instances, this meant outsourcing services that were performed already by public employees. NYSUT and other unions have continuously been forced to seek amendments to these introduced bills to provide labor protection language for our members.

Furthermore, from a public policy standpoint, it is our view that the proliferation of SUNY land lease bills over the last decade has served to slowly privatize our public university. We believe that this is bad public policy. At the very least, we would hope to see that labor protection language be included in any formal proposal to ensure that we protect our member's jobs.

While we support providing increased flexibility to SUNY in many areas, we strongly believe that in this area, the current process for approving land lease proposals on a case by case basis with legislative and gubernatorial oversight should remain. We urge you to reject this proposal.

Similarly, we also oppose the authorization of SUNY's hospitals to engage in joint ventures with private entities to provide service contracts. Again, we are very concerned about the potential negative impacts to the public employees working in these institutions. We urge you to also reject this proposal.

CONCLUSION

Again, thank you for taking the time to hold these important hearings. I look forward to working with you in the coming months on these and other important issues. I will now turn the microphone over to Dr. Floss who will be followed by Dr. Bowen.

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